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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.

~

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.

 

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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
~
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.

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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

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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.

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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:

5

Olsen Farms decorations on display for passersby:

7

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

3

John Huschle displays the new sandwich:

6

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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.

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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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Happy Food Day! 

In time for the second annual Food Day today, October 24th 2012, Mayor McGinn’s office has released the new Seattle Food Action Plan.

The document focuses on sustainability, accessibility, and health which, advocates are increasingly understanding, are inextricably linked. Specifically, the goals are:

  • Healthy Food for All
  • Grow Local
  • Strengthen the Local Economy
  • Prevent Food Waste

 

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I have an article up on the Food Day blog! Read it here:

SOLD OUT: At a time when Americans are thinking hard about diet, who really chooses what we eat?

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First things first: Do not, should you encounter them in your wanderings, tell my parents about this recipe. (The Internet is a private place, right? Right?? Oops.) My parents love ducks. Not, like, love ducks with wine and leeks. I mean my parents use “duck” as a pet name for each other, refuse to eat duck, and once looked at me like I’d just committed the worst betrayal when I considered ordering something with duck fat at a restaurant. My father once encountered a duck quacking indignantly in the dried-up fountain of Rockefeller University, and immediately went up to the front desk to explain that the ducks needed the fountain refilled. So, yeah; let’s be clear: I am committing a complete and total family sin here, just hours before Yom Kippur.

And holy wow is it tasty.

At the farmers markets this past weekend, I noticed Sea Breeze Farm was selling small containers of duck fat. I gave in the second time I saw it.

I’ve always heard potatoes and duck fat are a dreamy combination. Not having much time to make a snack, I went for the quickest route I could think of. I gathered a few baby potatoes (some skagit golds and all-purples from Nature’s Last Stand and some ruby fingerlings from my garden). I sliced them into thin pieces.

I heated some duck fat on medium-high, generously covering the bottom of a cast iron pan, and added the potatoes to cover the bottom. I added a little more duck fat, one more layer of potatoes, and a sprinkling of salt. Then I covered it and walked away for a few minutes.

When I came back to the pan, the potatoes on the bottom were brown. I flipped and stirred until the uncooked ones were on the bottom, and let those brown too (again, covered and without stirring). A few minutes later, all the potatoes were cooked. I sprinkled on a bit more salt, and that was that.

This works simply as is but would be a nice side to roast chicken or lamb or a winter squash soup or a big salad.

(And message to my parents –– I know, I know: weebk!)

 

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If you like the recipe below, please vote for my entry, Lamb Stuffed with Summer Vegetables, at the Seattle American Lamb Pro-Am site here:

 

 

 

Thanks so much!

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I was invited to participate in the American Lamb Pro-Am contest for Seattle bloggers. The rules were simple: Bloggers get handed a mysterious cut of lamb and we have one week to create a new recipe and blog it. The top four bloggers get advanced to the next round. (If you like this recipe, please vote for it here!)

I asked, of course, if the lamb was grass-fed. It was, and was from Oregon. How could I say no? I love lamb, and this was local-ish and sustainably-raised.

I imagined we were going to get a small cut or package of something like lamb stew meat or ground lamb. Instead, the mystery cut was… an enormous boneless leg of lamb.

Many home cooks are daunted by cooking meat in the first place––even something simple like chicken pieces–– and are way too intimidated by something like a leg of lamb. But with good ingredients, a thermometer, and a sense of humor, you can totally tackle this.

So what do you do with a giant leg of lamb?

Step 1: Call over a bunch of your dearest friends for dinner. Check.

Step 2: With a leg of lamb, the next question is: to roast or to braise? I find summer is better for roasting, winter is better for braising. In the winter, you want something soupy and falling off the bone, tender and full of beans and comforting enough to get you through a cold night. Slow braising is also best for meat with the bone in, when you can savor the marrow and let the bone leech nutrients into the meat.

But in the summer, you want something that is both filling and fresh-tasting, something you can eat outside and then enjoy cold in snacks and sandwiches and salads and on picnics for ensuing days of (yes!) not having to turn your oven on. And roast lamb with fresh summer ingredients is the kind of dish that makes you want to skip off into the summertime warm night air and, like, propose to the first person you see. (Don’t!)

Since the leg was boneless, I knew I wanted to stuff it. I first had stuffed lamb at Kabab Café in Astoria, NY, and it was a revelation. Ali El Sayed, the warm-hearted and insightful chef at Kabab Café, is a culinary genius. I’d never thought of stuffing anything into lamb. I grew up on lamb that was simply poked with garlic and rosemary and left to cook. But Ali stuffed lamb with combinations of things I still can’t identify, a dish I couldn’t stop thinking about after I first ate it.

I decided to stuff my lamb with the best vegetables of summer, and mix those vegetables with flavors that would hold the stuffing together, both literally and gustatorily. I’d serve it with a mushroom risotto, a tomato sauce built on lamb drippings, and some simple sautéed kale, although you could substitute a salad or some fresh sliced fennel for the kale. We ended the meal with a rhubarb-yellow-plum compote flavored with nutmeg and honey, thanks to my friend Karyn.

This is a special occasion dish. But summer in Seattle is short. Doesn’t the fact that it’s still here kind of make any night a special occasion?

~

Lamb leg stuffed with summer vegetables, with saffron-tomato sauce and mushroom risotto

STUFFING

  • 2 onions
  • 6+ cloves garlic
  • 3/4 lb ground lamb
  • 2 small heads of fennel (bulb only; save the green parts)
  • 3/4 lb summer squash (tromboncino, yellow squash, patty pan, etc), the smaller the better
  • 4 oz mushrooms (about 6)
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup basil (will be ground in food processor)
  • 1/2 cup fennel leaves (will be ground in food processor)
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley (will be ground in food processor)
  • 3 slices toasted gluten-free bread (will be ground in food processor)
  • 3 oz dried mushrooms (I used porcini) (will be ground in food processor)
  • Additional handful of basil, chopped
  • Additional handful of Italian parsley, chopped
  • olive oil
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 2 dashes cinnamon
  • salt to taste
  • food processor or something similar

LAMB AND SAFFRON-TOMATO SAUCE

  • 1 leg of lamb, bone removed
  • cooking twine
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 bulb fennel, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots (or 4 small), chopped
  • 1.5 lbs very ripe tomatoes, chopped (the tomatoes go into the pot later than the other vegetables)
  • handful of fresh basil
  • extra olive oil
  • 2 generous pinches of saffron
  • salt to taste
  • Large roasting pan or Dutch oven
  • Separate pan to put the meat aside for dressing and resting

RISOTTO

  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • butter for cooking
  • 5.5 cups mushroom broth (Pacific makes a good one. Alternatively use homemade mushroom or meat broth)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 onion
  • 2–5 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup shelled English peas
  • 1/2 lb mushrooms, assorted (I used creminis, pink oyster mushrooms, and two porcinis)
  • a few tablespoons of butter to stir in at end
  • 1/2–1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • pinch of saffron

~

LAMB

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees (don’t worry, it won’t stay there). Prepare the stuffing and the roasting vegetables first. Chop the roasting vegetables (onion, carrot, fennel in the LAMB section above). For the stuffing, chop onions, garlic, fennel, squash, and mushrooms how you prefer them. I like small pieces of garlic and onion, slices of squash, and thin-sliced fennel and mushrooms. If you’ve bought summer squash, take a second to see if the insides have gorgeous patterns:

2. Using some olive oil in the bottom of your Dutch oven, sauté onion and garlic until the onion is clear and a little brown. Add the fennel and stir five minutes more. Add mushrooms and stir until they brown. Stir in ground lamb until brown. Stir in chopped parsley and basil and turn off the heat.

3. In a food processor, combine the gluten-free toast, basil, fennel leaves, parsley, and dried mushrooms. Blend until completely combined. The herbs will turn this mixture dark green.

4. Stir this mixture into the Dutch oven, adding the saffron, cinnamon, and golden raisins, over low heat for two minutes.

5. Spread out the lamb on your spare roasting pan. Spread the stuffing mixture all over the lamb. Roll it up tightly and tie it with cooking twine. Push in the ends to keep stuffing from escaping. If you have leftover stuffing, roast it in a small baking dish at the side or freeze it for another cooking project. Since your Dutch oven is now empty, fill the bottom with the chopped onion, fennel, and carrots you’ve prepared.

6. Turn the oven off and turn it to broil on high. You’ve now prepared a hot oven with searing heat from the top. Place the lamb into the vegetables. Let it broil with one side up for seven minutes, then turn it and broil the other side for eight minutes, so 15 minutes total.

7. Turn the broiler off and put the oven up to 450 degrees. Roast the lamb at 450 for 30 minutes.

8. Take the lamb out and rotate it. Turn the heat down to 400. Add 1/2 lb of your tomatoes to the pot and stir into the vegetables already below the meat. Put the lamb back in the oven for 30 minutes.

9. Check the lamb’s temperature with a meat thermometer. It’s supposed to reach 135F for medium-rare; time it as you prefer your meat.

10. When it’s done, take the lamb out and let it rest before you think about slicing. Time to prepare the tomato sauce.

SAFFRON-TOMATO SAUCE

11. You already have the tomato sauce most of the way done. Chop the garlic you’ve reserved for the sauce, and add it to the cooked drippings/tomatoes/vegetables. Also chop the remaining tomatoes and add them (I used the gorgeous ones below plus some small, ripe red ones, both from Tonnemaker’s at the farmers market). Add saffron, crushing it between your fingers. Let the mixture simmer while you work on the risotto. When you’re ready to turn the sauce off, use an immersion blender or regular blender to purée it, then turn off the heat, tear in a handful of basil, and add a few dashes of olive oil to complete it.

MUSHROOM-PEA RISOTTO

12. If you’re serving the lamb with risotto, chop your onions, garlic, and mushrooms, and set aside. Warm broth and set over a low flame. You can crumble your saffron directly into it.

13. Sauté onions and most (but NOT all!) of the garlic in butter until onion is clear. Salt slightly.

13. Stir the rice into the pot and let it get coated by the onions and garlic. Add the white wine and stir.

14. To cook the risotto fully, add the broth one ladle at a time, until the rice is cooked but still slightly al-dente. Turn off the heat.

15. Slice your mushrooms. I used a mixture of different varieties, including some gorgeous pink oyster mushrooms. In a large pan, sauté the remaining garlic and all the mushrooms in butter until the mushrooms brown and release their juices.

16. Stir this into the risotto with the uncooked English peas, the parmesan, and the butter. The heat of the risotto will cook the peas to perfection, especially if you’re using tiny peas like the ones I got from Willie Green’s at the Columbia City farmers market.

SERVE

16. Slice the meat. Ali’s advice is to give everyone tastes of different sections of the leg, because they are different in flavor. Serve with any bright-tasting green side, like a salad, sautéed kale, or fresh fennel slices.

If you like this recipe and like local food, please vote for it! Nearly everything in this lovely dinner came from local sources, with the exception of the spices, olive oil, golden raisins, and rice.  

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As today’s Google Doodle probably already suggested to you, this would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday. Seems appropriate to raise a glass of wine (or two; this IS Julia…).

I grew up watching old episodes of The French Chef. My mother taped them all off PBS. We had Mastering the Art of French Cooking (volumes 1 and 2) on my parents’ shelf in New York, and another copy in our family friends’ basement in Seattle, just to make sure we wouldn’t be without Julia when we were subletting houses and cat-sitting in Seattle in the summers. My mother was really the source of this Juliaphilia. She lived in Paris for several years after she finished college and fell in love with French cooking, adopting French methods and bringing a French sensibility to traditional Jewish recipes like brisket. We shopped at farmers markets, cooked at home with good ingredients, and delighted in simple food. “It’s best when it’s fresh,” my mother still says, usually to justify herself or a family member reaching for another serving of something delicious.

In college, I was part of a 110-person vegetarian co-op. Once a semester, we were each responsible for collaborating on a special meal, either a fancy Saturday night dinner or a Sunday brunch. My friends and I decided to make French breakfast, a pile of baguettes and croissants and butter and jam and tea and coffee and juices. (This was before I figured out I couldn’t eat gluten.) I called my mother. She faxed me everything Julia wrote about croissants and baguettes. We stayed up all night in the kitchen, spraying the ovens with water every time Julia’s faxed pages said to do it and studying diagrams of proto-croissants.

Being Jewish, I didn’t feel left out when Christians started wearing W.W.J.D. bracelets and using hip language about their faith, like, “I’m down with JC!” (I really did hear someone say that once.) After all, my family had our own ideology: What Would Julia Do? And, of course, we were also down with JC. The very tall JC who wasn’t afraid of butter or fresh ingredients or being utterly delighted by food without having to find cutesy or obnoxious ways to word her utter delight.

To Julia, to butter, to fresh ingredients, and to many more years of inspiring cooking with fresh ingredients and utter delight. And to making sure access to ingredients and cooking skills and time and health are recognized as a right, not a privilege.

Bon appétit.

picture courtesy Julia Child Facebook page

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Today would have been my grandmother’s 91st birthday. I still miss her terribly. This is one of the many ways I picture her: at her farmers market, the Santa Monica Market in California.

In my family, local, delicious food and farmers markets are generational. Before she moved to California, my grandmother would take us to visit farms and farm stands on Long Island, NY. My parents took us to the weekly Greenmarket in a parking lot near our apartment in Manhattan, and to Pike Place Market when we lived in Seattle in the summers (Pike Place was more of a farmers market back then).

For those of you raising families or mentoring kids, bringing them to a farmers market doesn’t just make them more interested in healthy and sustainable food now, it plants seeds for their future interests and values. You don’t have to have your own generational history of a farmers market routine to enjoy building one. But when you bring kids with you, they grow up thinking of it as a tradition, the way food shopping simply is.

I have many of my grandmother’s small market-going habits. Aiming for favorite vendors who may run out of something delicious, and who we know have the best potatoes or raspberries. Talking to farmers and knowing many of them personally after years of going to the same market. Giving unsolicited recipe advice to someone wondering aloud how to use a vegetable with which they’re unfamiliar, or reassuring them that the strange-looking lemon cucumber is totally worth adding to their salad.

It feels trite to say I feel my grandmother with me at farmers markets (and in my kitchen and in flower gardens and on sailboats…) but a piece of her is there. She shaped how I experience them, as did my parents. I hope I can return and continue the favor.

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Two weeks ago, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a ban on selling soda sizes over 16 oz at restaurants, movie theaters, and arenas. Much of the public discussion since then has repeated the beverage industry’s framing, whether supporting or refuting it. Today, let’s take a step back and pay attention to the ban behind the curtain.

New York’s proposal places a limit on companies —indirectly, but functionally by restricting their sales of the most harmful serving sizes of a product. It still allows consumers to buy more, but restricts companies from using big cups as an incentive. This approach puts the responsibility on industry. It’s a win for health.

Why does size matter? There’s a concept in environmental health called the dose-response relationship. It’s pretty simple: a large dose of or repeated exposure to a substance may affect someone differently than a small dose or single exposure. A 200 mg pill of ibuprofen is safe. A 200 gram pill of ibuprofen, not so much. You will not find Advil Grande or Advil Venti anytime soon.

Unlike medicine, soda isn’t good for you even in a small dose. Of course, the health consequences of a large dose of soda aren’t so quick and dramatic as those of a giant pill. But those health consequences are real, and they’re made worse with larger doses and repeated exposure. So while small sodas are also unhealthy, a size ban sends the message that it’s irresponsible to market and sell large sodas. This is especially true if drinking large sodas begets drinking more large sodas. But does it?

In short, yes. Portion size can influence human behavior. In the case of soda, it can do so in two ways, one short-term and one long-term.

In the short term, people are more likely to finish whatever food is in front of them. In this study, one group ate more out of secretly-refilling soup bowls than a control group ate out of regular bowls. (Confession: I secretly want one of those soup bowls, maybe with some nice minestrone.)

In the long term, high doses of liquid fructose can impair hormones that regulate weight, appetite, and fullness, leading people to consume more and get sick. Sodas and other liquid fructose beverages are dangerous. But they’re especially dangerous in quantity and with repeated exposure. High doses of fructose over time change hormones, brain signals, and metabolism so that we want more soda and food. Also, liquid carbohydrates don’t trigger fullness the way solid ones do, so sugary drink calories may add to rather than supplant meal calories. Some animal studies even suggest that intense sweetness is more addictive than cocaine.

Diet is about much more than choice or behavior, as this and other research suggests. The idea of choice loses some meaning when a product impairs the body’s own built-in mechanisms for control. Similarly, “appetite control” takes on a more insidious meaning when a product itself changes appetite. What we consume is largely influenced by availability, income, marketing, culture, and other social factors that can help determine health. For example, the beverage industry disproportionately targets marketing to children and communities of color.

Soda’s health problems go beyond its role in appetite. Its impact on health and mortality is felt worldwide. Sugary drinks are overwhelmingly correlated with obesity and diabetes risk, among many other diseases. Fructose intake is connected with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. The dose-response relationship between soda and health problems is especially bad in children, who are smaller than adults and going through critical stages of development. A single increase in serving size per day raises a chid’s obesity risk 60%. Sugary drink consumption is also associated with high blood pressure, gout, lower nutrient intake, lower bone density, hypertension, and other health problems.

The NYC plan is a simple starting place. There are other ways to limit the reach of the beverage industry, such as sugary drink taxes, restrictions on sugary drinks in schools, or rules about targeted advertisements to children. It will be interesting to see whether changes in fast food restaurants are associated with changes in soda intake at home too, where childhood sugary drink consumption is an even larger problem. A plan like Bloomberg’s has to be part of a larger public health effort that includes restrictions, collaboration across sectors, and public education and empowerment. Communities across the country are strategizing about this issue. But the beverage industry spends millions of dollars on lobbying and fighting public health efforts.

The largest size soda that would be allowed under this ban, 16 oz, currently costs just $1.19 at a McDonald’s in Manhattan. But many consumers won’t bother getting a second soda or a refill. Win for the consumer, loss for the industry. Until it figures out how to make a 16 oz secretly-refilling cup.

Image source: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/19684

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Save the date! I plan on going to this and am excited to see who else will come too. The intersections are the places critical changes are going to happen; until we understand how things intersect –– public health and food policy, sustainability and social justice, nutrition and community, etc –– we’re not going to make systemic change. Come discuss how we can do this better.

PUBLIC HEALTH AND FOOD POLICY SUMMIT

Wednesday June 6th – 1:00pm to 5:00pm

The Regional Food Policy Council of the Puget Sound Regional Council invites you to attend a summit to discuss the linkages between food policy and public health, and how to better align food and health to foster positive health outcomes. The summit will broadly address

• how food can play a role in health decisions • how to better integrate food and health into retail and procurement • the interaction between economic development and health • the influence of agriculture on health • the nexus of food, health and equity

The summit will be divided into three moderated panel sessions that focus on:

1.Access to healthier food

2. Farm to institution

3. Emerging issues

The meeting will be held at PSRC, 1011 Western Ave, Suite 500. More information on the summit will be provided closer to the event. Please RSVP to FoodPolicy@psrc.org

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In case you haven’t been following the progress of the 2012 Farm Bill, which just came out of the Agriculture Committee to head to the Senate floor, here’s a thoughtful update from Environmental Working Group about the draft that just came out of the committee. While some relatively small investments (in the millions) have been proposed for local and sustainable food projects, there are cuts to programs addressing hunger and promoting healthy foods. Much of the proposed money (in the billions) is still being directed towards grain subsidies (corn, wheat, soy, rice, cotton) for wealthy companies, via entitlements and insurance.

If you track the foods that have increased the most during the last few decades of the obesity epidemic, these foods are all based on those same grains. (Here is a graphic I made about this topic.) Corn sweeteners, grains and grain fillers, and corn/soy/cottonseed/”vegetable” oils. Not to mention that continuing to subsidize grains means tearing up land for monocrop planting, and continuing the nutritionally-foolish and environmentally unconscionable practice of grain-feeding livestock.

That the farm bill stays this way and that it’s shaped by the deepest pockets in industrial agriculture is no surprise. But that doesn’t mean we should be cynical and do nothing. Call your senators and tell them you want a 2012 Farm Bill that reduces subsidies for large-scale grain production, and redirects billions of dollars to hunger programs, to investment in small-scale sustainable farming, to farm-to-school projects, etc.

If you want to get involved or informed locally, check out the Northwest Farm Bill Action Group (and their Facebook page). There is also a free opportunity to learn about the Farm Bill tomorrow (Thursday May 3rd 2012) at 6 pm in Ballard.

~

Thanks to Katie for the CC corn pic and to Cynthia for the info on tomorrow’s session.

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My family and I first tasted lahmajoun at a street fair in New York City. I was probably eight or ten years old. I think it was an Armenian festival in honor of St. Vartan. It fit the formula of some of the best New York street fairs: It honored a saint probably unknown to people outside of the culture in question, and it featured old women making delicious things you should not pass up.

Lahmajoun are incredibly tasty pizza-like creations, so thin you can roll them up when you eat them, preferably piping hot and drizzled with lemon juice. They commonly have lamb, although could be made with other ground meats instead. A vegan version could probably substitute finely-chopped sautéed mushrooms for the meat, although I think the lamb is what makes this recipe particularly tasty.

After we discovered lahmajoun, we went back to the festival in subsequent years to buy stacks of them and keep them in the freezer. But after a few years we stopped going. Maybe the street fair no longer happened. Maybe my parents forgot.

For years the taste of lahmajoun stayed a memory. Then the craving started creeping in as I thought about foods I grew up with and hadn’t tasted in years. I hunted for lahmajoun. I couldn’t find them in Seattle. I ate some in Los Angeles, where there is a sizable Armenian population.

Then I found out I was gluten intolerant. This wasn’t the end of the world, since I try not to eat all that many refined carbohydrates anyway. But I still craved a few foods, lahmajoun among them.

I don’t normally plug products (which means the people who have me on their email lists for product-plugging might as well send me pictures of kittens instead; I’ll pay more attention to those), but I’ve been appreciating Manini’s, the little gluten-free flour company that’s been selling at the U-District farmers market. Their flour behaves pretty much just like pastry flour. Discovering this is probably not the best thing for my health, but does make me happy when I want some perfect pie or to make my grandmother’s hamantaschen recipe.

So I decided to try using a very thin version of the Manini’s pizza dough recipe for a batch of lahmajoun. I consulted a range of different topping recipes and came up with a combination that tasted familiar. It worked perfectly. The result was a Proust-like experience, sending me to a memory-street in Manhattan, where I was eating a freshly-rolled lahmajoun for the first time.

I made these for a friend’s party in December and again for Pi Day. Here’s the recipe.

~

Gluten-free Lahmajoun

  • 1/2 batch Manini’s gluten-free pizza dough recipe
  • 3/4 lb ground lamb (grass-fed)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • a few cloves of garlic
  • 1 small bunch Italian parsley
  • 1 medium bunch fresh mint
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2/3 jar of tomato sauce or equivalent homemade tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes. Some people add tomato paste.
  • spices to taste (pretty generous quantities): paprika, cumin, turmeric, allspice
  • a little bit of ground coriander (optional)
  • a little bit of chili pepper (optional)
  • salt
  • olive oil or other favorite cooking fat
  • lemon wedges (Meyer lemon is nice)

1. Prepare pizza dough recipe.

2. While dough is refrigerating, work on the topping. Preheat oven to 425F-450F, depending how hot your oven runs.

3. In a food processor, combine the onion (pre-cut into a few chunks), red pepper (seeded and cut into chunks), garlic cloves, parsley, mint, and optional bit of chili pepper.

4. Heat oil. Add ground lamb and stir. Add salt, spices and tomato sauce or tomatoes, and let it cook at low heat together for a few minutes.

5. Stir in mixture from the food processor. Cook on low heat for about fifteen or twenty minutes or until the flavors have really fused well. Stir as needed to prevent sticking.

6. While the mixture is cooking, roll out your dough. To do make individual sized lahmajoun, about 6-8 inches across, break off chunks of dough about the size of an egg. Roll each into a ball with your hands. Then roll it out on a floured surface as thin as you can without it tearing, usually a little less than 1/8 inch. Place these on baking sheets, dusted with flour or covered with parchment paper.

7. When your topping mixture is ready, spread a thin layer of it on each round of dough. Bake briefly, about ten minutes. You want the dough just barely to cook through, so it’s cooked but still soft enough to roll with slightly crisped edges.

8. Serve hot with lemon wedges and extra chopped parsley.

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I just got off a call with an MBA student from Minnesota who had found me online via some things I’ve written about soda, health, and homemade alternative carbonated beverages. She wanted to interview me about attitudes in Seattle toward new soda products. It turned out she was doing a student project with a Minnesota-based “natural” soda company, and wanted to ask me questions about the Seattle scene for the purposes of marketing here. She was very nice, and she accepted my feedback gracefully.

Instead of advising her on how to promote her product, which I told her I was uncomfortable doing, I asked her a few questions. It turned out the product she’s working on has as much sugar in it as a standard soda, even if it uses cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. I was polite but direct with her, and told her they should come back and try marketing in Seattle when they’ve created a product using no sweeteners or artificial sweeteners at all, and even limited juice. That there’s an untapped market of people who just don’t want to drink sugar. That non-sugary carbonated beverages actually can taste pretty good. (See my experiments with kaffir lime leaf soda and other flavors.)

And frankly, if you go into a Whole Foods or similar store, there are already plenty of way-too-sugary drinks infused with all-natural pomegranate-hemp-goji-açai essence (or, you know, other flavors) trying to trick the diet-craze-conscious but not necessarily informed consumer into slurping simple carbs. Even from a business perspective, health egregiousness aside, that market is over-saturated.

Fighting “Big Soda” is an obvious primary goal, since the larger beverage industry has lobbying/donor/marketing dollars in play, their products contain the worst of everything, and their products often target children and people with limited finances or access to healthy food. But what about Little Soda? One concern is that if more health-conscious consumers drink sweetwashed sodas, they may be less likely to get behind the idea that all liquid sugary drinks are unhealthy, and we might lose potential advocates and allies.

But sweetwashing isn’t just from small companies. Another — much bigger — concern is that many of the perceived smaller soda companies are actually owned by larger Big Soda type companies that make energy drinks and other sodas, the companies on whose behalf the American Beverage Association lobbies. These companies may see owning small brands as a way to expand their market and distract from their detrimental role in public health. Seen Izze Soda around your “natural foods” supermarket? It’s owned by Pepsi. (I wrote four years ago about how Naked Juice is owned by Pepsi.)* Hansen’s is owned by Monster.

There are really some small companies out there making products they genuinely want to be healthful and taste good. It seems unlikely but possible to convince some of the starting companies to counter the liquid sugar trend by coming up with truly unsweetened, low-carb, additive-free beverages. And if so, Little Soda might actually prove helpful. But I’m skeptical.

~

*With apologies, the above link may not work after June, as Apple throws out all the old MobileMe websites made with iWeb. Any web developers out there who want to help me rescue my several years of blog entries and their comments on that old site?

Credit to Judy for the Creative Commons photo.

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This is my new favorite thing.

I already harvested nettles once this spring, and stocked my freezer with this year’s batch of addictive nettle pesto. But this recipe has me wanting to go back out this week for more nettles and freeze them blanched and ready for future batches of nettle saag paneer. The time to harvest nettles is NOW, while they’re still young. I go for the short ones, about eight inches or shorter.

Saag paneer, also called Palak Paneer is an Indian dish of mildly-spiced, creamed, puréed spinach with cubes of paneer cheese, which is firm and mild.

Full credit for the idea of nettle saag paneer goes to my brilliant friend Karyn, who came up with it while we were out harvesting nettles. She also made a batch, and made her own paneer, a step I skipped in favor of some paneer from Appel Farms. [Note to Karyn: I just noticed that name!] It turns out nettles make amazing saag paneer. They have a darker, richer flavor than spinach, and I think the dish tastes more interesting with them.

There are all kinds of ways to spice saag paneer; use the approximations I give below, or find your own recipe online.

~

Nettle Saag Paneer (Nettle Palak Paneer)

Serves 2-3

  • About 2 cups of nettles, measured after blanching. I’d guess this is somewhere between a quarter and a half a pound.
  • Water for blanching
  • Gloves or tongs
  • Half a pound of paneer cheese, bought or homemade
  • One medium onion
  • Five cloves of garlic or to taste
  • Cream – about a half pint or to taste/consistency preference
  • Fresh ginger
  • Whole cumin seeds
  • Garam masala
  • Ground coriander
  • Ground or fresh turmeric
  • Salt
  • Ghee, butter, or your preferred cooking fat
  • Fresh cilantro or sorrel for garnish (optional — I found some nice sorrel in my yard)
  • Rice or riced cauliflower for serving (optional)

1. Harvest nettles carefully or buy them from a forager. They sting, of course, so either wear gardening gloves or gather them with a scissors or tongs. Some people swear by tricks for grasping them just so they don’t sting. I have no patience for that, but props to them if it works for them.

2. Heat a pot of water to boiling. Using gloves or tongs, put the washed nettles into the water just long enough to wilt. Remove immediately with tongs. You can save the water and use as a broth or tea. Let the nettles cool a bit and then run them through a food processor briefly, just for a few pulses. Leave them in there.

3. Cut up half a pound of paneer into cubes or rectangles. Dust with turmeric, coriander, and a bit of salt. In a large frying pan, preferably something thick like cast iron, heat ghee or other fat. Fry the paneer, turning the pieces side to side so they get golden-brown. Take them out of the pan and set aside.

4. Add more ghee/other fat to the pan, leaving bits of spice residue from the paneer in it. Add the cumin seeds, wait a few seconds, and then add the onions and garlic and stir. Cook slowly on medium heat until the onions soften fully and start to brown a very little bit.

5. Take the garlic and onion mixture out of the pan and add it to the food processor. Pulse again a few times.

6. Add the whole mixture from the food processor back into the pan and set to medium heat. Slowly add cream until the consistency is somewhat liquidy but also thick. The mixture should bubble  lightly but not boil. Add spices to taste, including plenty of fresh ginger grated in. Adjust salt. I tend to like the flavor heavy on the garam masala and ginger.

7. When the flavor is right, add the paneer back in, stir, and let it simmer a few moments. Serve, with optional rice or riced cauliflower, and with garnish of cilantro or sorrel.

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Edit: I assume everyone figured out this is an April Fool’s Day post. I’ll leave it up for posterity. Enjoy your Xanaxparagus!

The House of Representatives and Senate have both passed a new piece of legislation concerning the intersection of agriculture and pharmaceuticals. A group of members of the House and Senate agriculture and drug industry committees met in secret earlier in the week to draft the bill. The omnibus bill replaces the existing Farm Bill, which was up for reauthorization this year.

While activists have long critiqued previous iterations of the Farm Bill for things like subsidizing corn and other commodity crops linked to diseases of civilization, and not going far enough enough to support sustainable farmers or people experiencing food insecurity, the new legislation is likely to raise ire. But it might be worth a second look.

The controversy is sprouting because the Pharm Bill approaches food from a medical –– or really pharmaceutical –– perspective. Under the bill –– and under the watch of new so-called “adrugcultural” corporations –– growers will receive subsidies for partnering with drug companies to genetically modify their crops to include commonly-prescribed medications. This means next year’s markets could bring us products such as Xanaxparagus, Amoxicelery, Priloseckle Pears, Broccodin, Lipitorpedo Onions, Cialeriac, Lexasprouts, Ibuprofennel, Viagrapes, and more.

Unsurprisingly to many activists, giant agricultural biotech corporation Monsanto is involved, partnering with Pfizer to develop and offer a fertilizer called Fertilepfizer to all participating farms. Fertilepfizer is available for free the first year. Although if it’s not paid for after that, it self-destructs, taking the nutrients of surrounding soil with it. Any farmer with traces of Fertilepfizer on his or her field must pay for it.

Many of my fellow local and sustainable food advocates have already responded with alarm to news of the Pharm Bill. But, despite my concerns about the Fertilepfizer component, I worry they may be reacting too hastily. Americans, after all, need their prescription drugs. Now Americans can get their medications –– organic, of course –– sourced from within 100 miles of home. Besides, we all know Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. This might be a way to get people to eat their amphetagreens. To make lemonade out of lemons. Or to make something out of lemons; citrus fruits haven’t been modified in experiments yet, so we don’t know what. Maybe Ritalemonade.

Seriously, though. For those trying to remember to take Vicodin with dinner, why not just take Vicodinner? For those taking birth control pills, what if they came in the form of peas: seven per pod, four pods per month? Wouldn’t that be easier to remember? And couldn’t this bring down costs of prescription drugs, something of concerns to Americans across all party lines?

I don’t know all the details yet about other parts of the Pharm Bill; it’s 31,242,366,889,463.4 pages long, after all.

And not everyone is so optimistic about the changes. Some farmers are reacting to the news as an opportunity to increase revenue. Others are pledging to fight back. Still others are already reeling from the news with despair, showing signs of depression, anxiety and hopelessness. Not wanting to abandon them in such a condition, the new adrugcultural companies are promising they have a pill –– or a bean –– that will help.

To read the full text of the 2012 Pharm Bill, go here.

(Thanks to Danyel and Sandra for additional research on this issue.)

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In spring, a young forager’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of greens.

That’s how that goes, right? I don’t remember, but when March in Seattle brings its flowering trees, its longer days, and its weather, uh, exactly like October through February, I start looking at the ground for plants that are best when they first come up. Dandelions (try my dandelions with leeks recipe, or the dandelion scramble). Nettles (here’s the nettle pesto recipe and a nettle broth with saffron dumplings). Miner’s lettuce, watercress, and plenty of other plants emerge in early spring too. And yesterday’s favorite, spotted by my talented friend Karyn as we were going for a walk in the woods: sheep sorrel.

There are two common wild sorrels that I’m aware of around here, sheep sorrel and wood sorrel. Both have a tangy, lemony flavor, similar to the kind of sorrel you can buy at a farmers market, but more delicate. They’re great in a cream sauce with sautéed onions and poured over salmon. But leave them fresh and you preserve both the flavor and the bright green color.

Karyn and I were planning to cook dinner together, and I was defrosting a piece of tuna I’d bought from St. Jude’s at the Ballard farmers market for the occasion. We made side dishes of roasted vegetables with lemon, boiled tiny salt potatoes, and some excellent squishy cheese. We seared the tuna with smoked paprika. Then we poured over it a blended mixture of raw sorrel (with a few young dandelion leaves thrown in because they were there), olive oil, salt, and a touch of lemon. It was bright green, and delicious with the tuna and with the carrots. Try this sauce with anything that has a light, fresh, springtime flavor. Or just eat it with a spoon.

~

Wild Sorrel Paste

  • About two cups of wild sorrel leaves, sheep sorrel if you can find it
  • About three tablespoons of olive oil
  • Juice of 1/4-1/2 lemon, per taste
  • A pinch of salt, also to taste
  • 4-5 cloves roasted garlic

1. Roast garlic. Since this sauce goes well with roasted vegetables, you could roast some carrots, parsnips, asparagus, or other vegetables along with the garlic, and make extra cloves to eat.

2. Wash sorrel very well.

3. Put all ingredients in a small blender. Blend.

 

~

Seared Tuna

  • about 1 lb fresh or defrosted sushi-grade tuna, local/sustainably caught
  • salt
  • smoked paprika/pimenton
  • black pepper (optional)
  • oil (a high smoke point oil is probably best, but we used a little olive oil and just seared quickly. It worked fine.)

1. Dust the tuna all over with tons of smoked paprika, a little salt, and some black pepper. Let it sit and absorb the flavors while you make the sorrel paste.

2. Heat oil in a flat-bottomed skillet. When the oil is hot, add the tuna and cook for a short amount of time (about 30 seconds) on each side. Your goal is for the inside to be raw but warmed, and the outer part to be cooked and a little brown in a few spots.

3. Slice perpendicularly so each piece gets the range from cooked to raw-ish.

4. Drizzle with the sorrel paste and serve.

~~

Better food pictures hopefully coming again in future posts. I lost my camera.

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This isn’t a post about food, I admit. These were ornamental cherry trees, not fruiting ones. But still.

If you’ve wandered through Seattle’s arboretum in springtime, you’ve surely noticed the long, flat walkway of cherry trees. It’s lovely, but it wasn’t the best place for blossoms in the park. That honor went to a hillside just south of the walkway, a grassy slope with a tiny gazebo and several old, gorgeous blooming cherries. Every spring, I (and numerous other Seattleites) found our way there to bask, picnic, take pictures, shake petals off of branches. People may have walked along the path, but seeing the hillside made them want to linger. It was the ideal basking and picnicking place, the kind of hillside that made old folks act like little kids, and sweethearts kiss and photograph their sweethearts.

It’s gone.

Here’s what it looked like yesterday. More pics at the end of the post, showing what it looked like before.

Seattle Parks and Rec, making way for a new New Zealand garden project, chopped down the trees. There wasn’t any particular reason they chose that hillside, it seems, other than that the trees were a bit older and the parks department was planning the New Zealand garden somewhere in that vicinity. They could have installed the New Zealand garden just down the slope, in a spot which is fairly overgrown and to which people have little emotional attachment. People could have sat under the cherry trees and admired the new garden. Seattle Parks and Rec could have planted a few new cherry trees among the old ones, so that they’d grow while the others were aging out.

They can’t put the old trees back, of course. But it’s not too late to do something. I just spoke with Andy Sheffer, the project manager, for a while. He has a meeting of the committee this Wednesday (3/7/12), and is willing to bring up my concerns. One idea: plant new cherry trees in that spot, leaving open grass between them, and install the new garden at the bottom of the slope. It wouldn’t be the same for years, but it would be beautiful again someday.

Trees and gardens come and go, and I don’t usually get quite this emotional about them. But in the short time I was standing in that spot yesterday, staring at the chopped stumps, several other people walked by and expressed remorse, including an older woman who had been coming for years. When I mentioned it on Facebook, several friends said how much they’d loved that spot, how they’d gone every year. While not everyone had discovered this idyllic little hillside, those who found it in spring adored it.

If you’d like to voice your opinion before Wednesday, Andy’s contact information is:

Andy Sheffer
800 Maynard Ave S,
Suite 300
Seattle, WA 98134
206-684-7041
andy.sheffer@seattle.gov

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Christina Kim Choi

For those who haven’t heard, Seattle lost the incredibly kind and talented Christina Kim Choi, founder of Nettletown and co-founder of Foraged and Found. She was also a friendly face at the farmers market, an artist, a friend. I saw her not too long ago at the farmers market. The news still doesn’t feel quite real.

Here is the link to the blog her family kept during the days of treatment that followed her brain aneurysm earlier in December.

Here is the link to the Seattle Times article.

Thank you, Christina, for changing our Seattle world for the better in the time you had. You will be missed.

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A few weeks ago, I tried an apple-fennel sauerkraut at a farmers market in Oakland. It was fresh and tasty, with whole fennel seeds mixed into the shredded cabbage and sliced apple. It inspired me to make my own, but to shape it according to my own taste.

I felt like the apple stood out too much in the kraut from the market. The pieces were big, cut differently from the green cabbage. Also, while the fennel seed was nice, I wanted to see what the recipe would taste like with slices of fennel bulb fermented along with the other ingredients. And while fennel seeds are tasty, I’ve been wanting to put caraway seeds in my sauerkraut for a while. I have a slight addiction to caraway seeds, the kind that happens when you grow up in New York thinking that the term “rye bread” is always preceded by the term “heavily-seeded,” if you want the good stuff.

Hence, this recipe. It’s worked out well. It’s been fermenting for a week and a half now, almost two weeks, and getting better every day. Try it out, and make your own variations. Enjoy!

Apple-Fennel Sauerkraut with Caraway Seeds

  • 1 small-med head green cabbage
  • 1 small-med onion, sweet or otherwise
  • 1 tart apple
  • 1 medium head of fennel (or more, if you like)
  • 1-3 Tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 3-5ish Tablespoons kosher salt
  • filtered water (Brita or store-bought). The water must be filtered, because chlorine can interfere with the fermentation process.
  • 1 ceramic crock, pretty easy to find at Goodwill
  • 1 plate that just fits down into said crock
  • 1 big jar or glass
  • a piece of cheesecloth or a big, thin cloth


1. Chop up green cabbage into very fine pieces, removing any of the white core part. Chop up onion or sweet onion into thin strips. Chop apple into thin strips mirroring the size of the cabbage and onion strips. Chop the fennel into thin strips, discarding the core and using only a little of the green part if it’s tender. Set aside a handful of caraway seeds, some kosher salt, and some filtered water.

2. Put the cabbage shreds in the crock first. Take a few tablespoon-sized pinches of kosher salt. Mix it into the cabbage, coating the pieces. Press down on the cabbage as you do this, to encourage the cabbage to start sweating. Then mix in the other vegetables and as much of the caraway seeds as you want to use (the favor goes pretty far).

3. Now, some people never add any water to their sauerkraut, because they magically get the cabbage to sweat enough liquid to cover the whole thing, which is the goal; you don’t want air touching the vegetables. But I’ve found at least some filtered water is necessary. Still, I give it a little time before I add the water, maybe a few hours.

4. To compress the kraut and help it sweat, take that small plate that fits inside your crock and put it on top of the cabbage mixture, pressing down. To hold it down, take that big jar and fill it with water to make it heavy. You can put a lid on in case it spills. Then drape your cheesecloth over the whole thing to keep bugs out.

5. Check it after a few hours. If the cabbage hasn’t released enough liquid to cover the mixture fully, go ahead and add some filtered water until it is covered.

6. The next morning, taste the water. Does it taste at all briney or does it just taste like water? If it just tastes like water, go ahead and toss in some more kosher salt.

7. Check the kraut every day. If a little white mold grows toward the top (I find this is less an issue with kraut than it is with pickles), skim that off.

8. The kraut should start being good after five days, get really good after a week, and get excellent in the 1.5-2.5 week range. Wherever you like it, at whatever stage of fermentation, put it in the refrigerator to slow down fermentation.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

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My mother’s turkey recipe

Picture is my mother’s turkey last year. It’s a very small one, and she uses fewer vegetables than I do.

~

I haven’t posted in a while, but I was just writing out the family turkey recipe for someone and thought I’d share it with you all too. If you’re looking for a delicious recipe that keeps the turkey moist and uses a lot of local vegetables, this is a great one. Down below the recipe, you’ll find some options for stuffing and a fairly ridiculous story related to this turkey recipe.

Happy Thanksgiving!

My mother’s turkey recipe

Scientifically proven to convert vegetarians (n=1)

This recipe is for a large turkey. Use a bit fewer vegetables for a smaller bird.

Ingredients:

  • Carrots — Probably two or three bunches for your size bird, depending on how big a roasting pan you have
  • Celery — At least a full head
  • Onion — Two or three, again depending on the size of your pan and the number of Jews (or Italians or other alliumphiles) present
  • Mushrooms — A big paper bag full? More? I love mushrooms; I’d say, buy a ridiculous number of mushrooms, realize you’ve bought too many for turkey, and use the rest in the traditional post-Thanksgiving omelet
  • Optional vegetables — Fennel and leeks are particularly nice. Potatoes are good too, although the starch will thicken the sauce a little. Some people like that, but I prefer it liquidy.
  • Tarragon — a sizable bunch/handful, leaves pulled off stem
  • Sage — a few good-sized sprigs, chopped small
  • Thyme — optional, but I like it. A few good-sized sprigs, pulled off stem
  • Turkey — usually helpful for a turkey recipe
  • Olive oil
  • Butter — optional if it’s too treif
  • Lemons — one or two
  • Kosher salt
  • Wine — red or white or a mixture, for the sauce
  • Cheesecloth
  • Tongs for the cheesecloth (or tough hands)
  • Cooking twine and a needle (or mad tying skillz)
  • A big roasting pan
  • Rice for the side — I like making both wild rice and regular white/brown rice. I cook my wild rice with sautéed onions and broth.
  • Stuffing — See options below or make your own. 

1. Prep:

Prepare your stuffing (see below).

Preheat oven to 450F.

Prepare your bird: My mother washes it, but I don’t; the thing is going to be roasting in a hot oven for a few eons, and washing it means you then have to wash your sink. Check for pin feathers and remove any. Take some tarragon leaves and some thin squares of butter, if you’re using it, and slide them under the skin of the whole bird. To do this, lift the skin gently at the turkey’s opening and coax the butter and tarragon up and over the breast and thighs. If you aren’t using butter, coax the tarragon up anyway and try to get a little olive oil but over and under the skin. Drizzle lemon juice all over the bird and in the cavity. You can even slice a bit of the lemon rind and tuck it under the skin, although that really changes the flavor.

Then fill the bird with stuffing and tie it closed, using cooking twine and a needle to sew the cavity closed or just get creative wrapping the thing with twine. I recommend sewing closed if you can. Finally, coat the bird with olive oil, rub it in, and sprinkle with salt. Dampen your cheesecloth with water and then coat it with olive oil, and drape the bird with cheesecloth.

2. Roasting:

The turkey starts at 450 degrees for the first half hour, then is lowered to 375 for the remainder of cooking time, which is 15 minutes per pound (add a little more if it’s a stuffed bird). The turkey should roast on its side, one wing up at a time. For the first hour (450 for 30 minutes, 375 for 30 min), you want to rotate every 15 minutes. After that, rotate every half hour. When you rotate, make sure the cheesecloth is keeping it moist; readjust the cheese cloth and pour on more olive oil as needed. If there are drippings, you can spoon those back up over the turkey to baste it when you rotate; this will get easier during the vegetable portion.

3. Vegetables other than mushrooms: 

When I make this recipe with a chicken, it rests on vegetables the whole time. With a turkey, it rests on vegetables only the last hour and a half. So, calculate when that will be, and start chopping your vegetables within the hour before predicted veg time. You want your vegetables sliced thin. This is one of those few recipes where the vegetables should end up soft in the sauce so they’ve absorbed as much turkey and wine flavor as possible, and the sauce is, well, sauce-like. So, cut very thin carrot and celery sticks about 3-4 inches long, thin strips of onion, and thin strips of fennel and leek if you’re using them. Do not use the mushrooms yet.

At t-minus* 1.75 hours, start pre-cooking your vegetables in olive oil in a heavy pot on the stove, with all of the sage and about half the tarragon. Add salt.

At t-minus 1.5 hours, take the bird out of the oven, lift it from the roasting pan, and make a bed for it out of all the vegetables, stirring them well into whatever drippings are down there. If whatever’s down there is browned onto the pan, use a dash of wine to deglaze it, and coat the vegetables with that. Place the turkey back on the vegetables, with all the wing-up rotations and oily-cheeseclth-testing done, and continue roasting, rotating every half hour. These times, stir the vegetables every time you rotate the bird wing-to-wing.

*Rumor has it that the phrase “t-minus” comes originally from the amount of time left until a turkey is done roasting. While this rumor has yet to be verified by any kind of trustworthy source like, er, the Internet, I think I’ll just go ahead and start telling all my friends this.

4. Mushrooms: 

Slice the mushrooms thin in time for t-minus 30 minutes. If you’re using some wild mushrooms, cut them in larger chunks.

Stir them into the other vegetables and place the turkey breast up for the last half hour of roasting. The theory here is that by placing it wing/leg up for most of the time, you’re getting the fat from those meats dripping down into the breast and keeping it moist/preventing it from drying out, but for the last half hour, now that it’s been nicely saturated, you want to get that skin nice and brown. This is a good time to start cooking your rice too.

5. Finishing:

Make sure the turkey is done by stabbing a thick joint between the leg and body to check if the juices run clear. The whole turkey should be golden brown. Put some fresh tarragon on it. Let the turkey rest 10-15 minutes at least before carving. Most people wait longer, given the arrival of guests and frantic finishing of other dishes.

But do take it out of the vegetables right away, because you want to make those into your sauce. To do so, pour wine directly into the vegetables. You can use white or red or a mixture. I prefer white for chicken, and a mixture of white and red for turkey. Red is good in this sauce, but it becomes a little strong with just red. I never measure the wine, honestly, I just keep tasting it until it tastes like my mother’s. But I’m guessing for turkey, and for this quantity of vegetables, it would be at least a few cups. Also, stir in all your remaining fresh tarragon leaves. This sauce is delicious on rice or mashed potatoes or just eaten by the spoonful.

Stuffing options

My mother just chops tiny pieces of onion, carrot, and celery, and sautés them with tarragon and sage and chopped Italian parsley, then uses that as a stuffing.

I start with that idea, but I add to it: some cooked brown rice and/or wild rice, maybe some gluten-free croutons (which someone was selling at the U-District market last Saturday), a handful of cranberries. Do whatever you like, but the sautéed onions, tarragon, and parsley should definitely be included. Stuffing isn’t a thing of measurements; just mix up whatever looks good to you.

Story time

The story gets saved for last. It’s a bit awkward, since it deals with my mother’s slight discomfort at the time with lesbians getting pregnant and having children — my mother is now very open-minded — but it’s hilarious and worth sharing, if you’re into awkward food stories about reproduction and mothers getting over their homophobia.

So, about ten years ago, my college best friend was ready to have a child (now my nearly-nine-year-old wonderful nephew). She had her child through a donor. This involved long, complicated processes of finding a good company in California, choosing a donor, and receiving a delivery kept cold on dry ice to rural Michigan, where she lived. (Not that there is any shortage of cold already in Michigan in the winter.) It also involved careful instructions for helping increase the odds of fertilization — not just the obvious things about timing around ovulation, but directions on what position to lie in afterwards and such.

That’s the thing: the old myth of instructions to use a turkey baster is false, but there are some other parallels with turkey. Specifically, as my friend described to me, she was instructed to spend several hours lying still, rotating from side to side. Fifteen minutes on each side, and then rotate every half hour or so, one hip up and then another. Then lie face up for a little bit.

“Uh, that’s my mom’s turkey recipe,” I told her. “Are you sure you didn’t mix up the instructions with the turkey recipe? Did I give you her turkey recipe maybe? Did I accidentally print it on stationary from a clinic I’ve never visited in California?”

“I’m sure I didn’t mix it up,” she promised. “I don’t have your turkey recipe. I’m a vegetarian.”

Meanwhile, I had been slowly working on my mother to get over any remaining homophobia in her system. My mother never harbored any hatred, just the discomfort of generational unfamiliarity, enhanced a bit by a childhood surrounded by musical theatre and film that prioritized heterosexual relationships above all. My mother had crushes on Marlon Brando and Sandy Koufax and Ezio Pinza. The idea of women partnering with women was still foreign to her. She graduated from an all-women’s college in the early 60s, but it was not an era in which many women were coming out. (“I remember there was one lesbian couple,” she once told me. “They sold cigarettes.”)

So I called up my mother. “I have to tell you a story,” I said. “I know you’re a little weirded out by the whole way D is getting pregnant, and that’s unfamiliar to you. But I think you’ll appreciate this if you can get past the discomfort.” I told her about the directions. “What does that sound like?” I asked her.

My mother paused. “That’s my turkey recipe,” she said, faintly. And laughed.

Fast forward nine months. I flew out to Michigan to be a birth partner to my friend, along with another dear friend of ours. It would be us and three (count ‘em, three) midwives supporting a home birth in her house in the woods. I flew out a few weeks early, just in case. Besides, at eight and a half months pregnant, my friend was in charge of a Thanksgiving dinner for several dozen people. I didn’t want to worry about her getting exhausted hauling giant pots all over the kitchen, and promised to take on the turkey and as much of the rest of the cooking as she wanted.

Of course, I brought my mother’s turkey recipe.

The Thanksgiving went off smoothly, and she even forgave me for being neurotic about the cutting of carrots (she was cutting large chunks, because she wanted them to be hard). After smelling the turkey cooking all day, and with the rather-increased appetite of being close to full term with a pregnancy, my dear vegetarian friend caved and devoured turkey. And ate it for leftovers. For days.

Today, I consider her son my nephew, and he is one of my favorite people in the world. He’s turning nine a week and a half after Thanksgiving. My mother is past her homophobia; she calls me up and rants about Republicans and their weird ideas about controlling marriage. My friend isn’t remotely vegetarian, and she makes my mother’s turkey recipe when she makes turkey, although she still cuts the carrots too big. She’s also an amazing mother, and lives much closer to me now.

And every Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for all of them, and for a good story.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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FOOD DAY is here! Food Day local calendar is here!

After months of hard work, Food Day is upon us. Food Day events in Washington State have already started, and there are some amazing things coming up this weekend and next week. Seriously, a field trip to the fascinating urban ag model at Hilltop Urban Gardens in Tacoma, a tour of the new Seattle Tilth farm in Auburn, the wonderful Eat Local Now! dinner in Seattle, a workshop on the Farm Bill in Seattle, a Seattle Farm Co-op launch party in Seattle, Nourish food + community film screenings all over Klickitat County, a day of events at WSU, a symposium at UW, an event about ending hunger in Skagit County, a feast and educational event in Clark County, screenings of The Greenhorns with the director in attendance… and SO. MUCH. MORE.

I’m excited. And getting hungry. (No, seriously. I’ve been working on Food Day since I woke up and forgot to eat. Ironic, right?)

Okay, details: There’s a wordpress calendar of WA activities here. PLEASE share this calendar on with others. These events are amazing and you should check them out, along with a few hundred of your closest friends.

A bit about the flagship dinner for the area, the Eat Local Now! event. Here is the press release for the event. If you’ve never been to Eat Local Now! and can afford to go, please do. It’s one of my favorite events of the year. I’m actually flying in for it straight from Food Day events in San Francisco, just to make sure I don’t miss it.

Eat Local Now!
Monday, October 24, 2011, 6-9:30pm.
at Herban Feast SODO Park

About the event and the organizations running it:

The 8th Annual Eat Local Now! Dinner Celebration encourages participation in local food systems, bolstering food equality for all. The event is at Herban Feast in Sodo Park at 3200 1st Avenue South in Seattle on October 24. Get tickets and more information for the 8th Annual Eat Local Now! dinner at EatLocalNow.org or by calling 1-800-838-3006. This year’s event presented by Sustainable West Seattle, CoolMom.org, Herban Feast and The Seattle Good Business Network.

CoolMom.org unites families to affect climate change through education, lifestyle change, and advocacy. CoolMom’s vision is to inspire moms, families and communities to practice sustainable living in how they live, learn, work and play to build a better future for our children.

Herban Feast is continually finding new ways to use regional suppliers, assist the area economy and agriculture community by sourcing ingredients from local producers and farmers, and employing sustainable practices. Herban Feast provides off-site catering at venues throughout the Puget Sound region and on-site catering at our distinctive event venue, Sodo Park. You can also find us at our farm-fresh, full-service restaurant, Fresh Bistro in West Seattle.

Seattle Good Business Network (formerly BALLE Seattle) is a non-profit venture that connects, empowers, and promotes Seattle-area business owners who care about the future of our place. Members are locally owned, independently operated businesses of all kinds.

Sustainable West Seattle educates and advocates for urban sustainability in our local community. SWS envisions a West Seattle community of empowered citizens who actively lead toward greater self-reliance, local democracy, social justice, and existence in harmony with life on earth. SWS meets the 3rd Monday each month at 7 PM.

Event contact: Christina Hahs
info (at) eatlocalnow.org
206.307.4860

Media contact: Kate Kaemerle
katekaemerle (at) gmail.com
206.743.4468

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I’ve been busy getting ready for Food Day, hence neglecting the poor blog lately. I’ve ended up the West Coast Coordinator of Food Day, focusing primarily on the Bay Area and other parts of California, as well as Washington State. I haven’t had much time for many of my favorite autumn activities like mushroom hunting, but I did take a few hours after services on Rosh Hashanah to head out into the woods with a friend and find some delicious chanterelles.

They were so fresh, and I was somewhat disciplined, so I still had some left and in good condition by the day I was preparing for my meal before the Yom Kippur fast. I wanted to eat something that would be filling but very digestible, and definitely delicious.

I settled on something coconut-milk-based, for its long-satiating fat and easy digestibility. I cooked chicken thighs with a little onion in coconut milk, added a little lemon juice and fish sauce, and served it with brown rice and cilantro. The meal was simple to prepare and even tastier than I expected, particularly because the flavor from the chicken cooked out into and mixed with the coconut milk sauce. Also, when the time came to break the fast on the next night, I wasn’t ravenous.

~

Chicken with Chanterelles, Coconut Milk, and Lemon

Serves two

  • chicken thighs and/or other parts (I made one thigh per person, but you may want more)
  • chanterelles or other mushrooms – about 1/2 pint or a generous handful
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 small/medium onion
  • dash of fish sauce
  • black pepper
  • a few pinches of fresh cilantro
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • coconut oil

 

1. Cook rice separately if you’re making it.

2. In a heavy skillet, like a cast-iron skillet, heat coconut oil. Place chicken parts into hot oil and cook about a minute or two on each side to brown. When you turn them to the second side, add onions all around them and stir.

3. When onions are softening and turning clear and a little brown, add the chanterelles and a little more coconut oil. Let them cook for a minute or so, stirring to make all sides touch the pan.

4. Add most but not all of your half-can of coconut milk to the chicken. Add a dash or so of fish sauce. Cover the pan with a lid and turn the heat to medium. Let it cook for a while, probably in the 20 minute range, until the chicken is cooked all the way through and liquids run clear when you poke the thickest parts with a knife.

5. Taste the sauce and adjust for salt/fish sauce. Grate in some fresh black pepper. Turn off the heat and add lemon juice and remaining coconut milk.

6. Serve with or without brown rice, and with cilantro sprinkled on top.

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I’m out of town today, which is a bit of a shame, because there are a number of great events going on in Seattle and Western Washington.

The most delicious-sounding in Seattle: Mobile Food Rodeo, Seattle’s new food truck event. Twenty-one food trucks of all sorts, from Skillet to Minimus Maximus.

Seattle is trying to catch up with other cities that have realized mobile food vending has a lot of potential to improve city life: it’s great for talented food entrepreneurs, and it’s great for residents who like to eat. It can even be a creative way to bring healthy food to neighborhoods, when cities provide incentives for food trucks meeting a certain healthy-food standard (e.g. produce vending trucks). Also, there’s something appealing about street food, eaten outside, often strongly-flavored. Calvin Trillin once described it as best eaten standing up, so one can jump up and down a little when it’s really delicious.

Please go to this event and eat something delicious for me. If you’re tweeting, it’s #mobilefoodrodeo

Also, if you want to get out of town for the day, our friends at Skagit River Ranch are hosting an awesome farm day festival. Skagit River Ranch is a wonderful farm. The owners, George and Eiko, devote themselves to producing high-quality pasture-raised meat and eggs. Their farm is in a lovely spot by the Skagit River. The day’s going to feature cooking demos, tours, a raffle, grilled meats, and even chicken poop bingo. Seriously.

Finally, head out to Port Townsend for the keynote evening of the Northwest Earth Institute’s Biannual Conference, to catch Will Allen’s talk on urban/community agriculture. From their email:

A keynote speaking event, co-sponsored by the Food Coop, The Good Food Revolution: The Power of Community Agriculture, with Will Allen – Milwaukee’s famed urban farmer   http://growingpower.org/assets/presskit.pdf

Hear Will Allen, son of a sharecropper, former professional basketball player and ex-corporate sales leader, one of the preeminent thinkers of our time on agriculture and food policy, speak on how he lives from his belief that all people, regardless of their economic circumstances, should have access to fresh, safe affordable, and nutritious foods.

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FACT: Bulbs of fennel in piles at the farmers markets are still young and tender, with mild flavor.

FACT: The first fully-ripe apricots of the season have appeared in markets.

FACT: Chicken salad is delicious.

FACT: Thyme makes chicken salad even more delicious.

This simple FACT salad (so-named for fennel, apricots, chicken, and thyme) was inspired by a pile of ripe apricots. Fruit is, of course, a nice addition to chicken salads and tuna salads and other branches of the protein-y salad family. I liked the idea of apricots with cold chicken, since it’s delicious to cook chicken with apricots or plums. But I felt like a chicken salad with apricots also needed some sort of fresh crunch. Hence, the fennel. Add a bit of thyme, ideally lemon thyme, and some homemade mayonnaise, and you’re done. The salad would also work great with plums or pluots.

~

FACT: Fennel-Apricot-Chicken-Thyme Salad

  • two chicken thighs, cooked any way you like. (I pre-roasted mine.)
  • two ripe apricots
  • half a small bulb of fennel, white part and a little bit of green stalks and leaves.
  • a few spoonfuls of homemade mayonnaise (bowl recipe and food processor recipe). I made my mayonnaise mustard-heavy this time, and used both apple cider vinegar and lemon juice in it. I used the kind of mustard that has seeds in it, although that’s not necessary.
  • a few sprigs of thyme, ideally lemon thyme

1. Cook the chicken thighs, or use leftover roast chicken. I roasted them at 450 with a few vegetables, some schmaltz, and a little white wine. Cool them.

2. Chop up chicken, apricots and fennel into small pieces. Remove leaves from thyme sprigs.

3. Mix everything up with spoonfuls of mayonnaise to taste.

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I spotted some lovely yellow patty-pan squash at the Madrona Farmers Market on Friday. They were medium-sized ones, at least a few inches across. Usually I like tiny patty-pan squash –– I like to cut them in half or quarters and quick-sauté them –– but I wanted to try doing something new. And that something was grilled cheese. Or… at least something grilled-cheese-like.

I cut off the tips and sliced each squash into four slices, two larger inside slices and two smaller outside slices. I pre-sautéed them with garlic, roasted them in the oven, spread them with tomato spread, filled them with cheese, and fried them again. Yum.

A warning for devotees of grilled cheese: This recipe doesn’t have the crispiness of a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s something else entirely, a pile of two-bite or three-bite snacks that are a little soft inside, but the softness works with the melty cheese and subtle flavor of summer squash. At a dinner of sandwich-like foods, these got finished before the regular grilled cheese.

~

Patty-Pan Squash Grilled Cheese

  • Patty-pan squash, about 3-4″ across, one or two squash per person
  • Butter
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Melty cheese, like monterey jack

Optional flavors:

  • pesto
  • tomato spread (ratio: 2 T tomato sauce; 1 t olive oil, pinch of salt, a few finely-chopped leaves of basil, a little crushed garlic)

1. Preheat oven to 375. The plan is to sauté the squash and then roast them, but you can actually grill them instead if you prefer, and they’ll be drier.

2. Carefully slice just the other bits of the top and bottom of the squash off; you want enough left that you can make four slices.

3. Slice the squash into four disks, two larger and two smaller. Chop up some garlic.

4. In a skillet, sauté the garlic and squash slices in butter until brown, using a little salt. The garlic is purely for flavor. You can add it into the cheese later if you like. I just snacked on mine; I can’t resist browned garlic.

5. Roast the squash slices for fifteen minutes or so. If you want to help some moisture evaporate, you can put them on a cookie-cooling rack over a baking sheet, but this isn’t necessary.

6. Slice cheese. Prepare pesto or tomato mixture if you like.

7. Take squash slices out of the oven. Match them according to size. Spoon a little pesto or tomato mixture onto each slice, add cheese, and make sandwiches.

8. Fry in butter, turning once. They’re done when they’re nicely browned and hold together well.

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Tic-Tac-Toe Omelet

Time to play with your food.

Asparagus season has lasted into July, one of the few benefits of the cool-and-wet May and June this year. Asparagus, like artichoke and several other foods that don’t begin with A, is a  funny-looking vegetable, the kind that’s prone to inspiring whimsical dishes. Admiring a pile of asparagus at the farmers market, I saw a new purpose for them: a tic-tac-toe board built into an omelet. Why not?

The idea’s pretty simple. If you cook your eggs on very low heat in a non-stick or well-seasoned cast iron pan, you can arrange whatever you like on the top while the omelet cooks through. Pre-sauté your vegetables or meats. Lay down a tic-tac-toe board made of two very thin asparagus stalks one direction, and two stalks broken into pieces the other direction. Play tic-tac-toe with edible Xs and Os, solo or with someone else. Let it cook, putting a lid on it for the last minute or so if necessary.

It’s not something I’d make every week, but it’s a fun treat for kids, game/puzzle enthusiasts, or anyone who likes to play with food. Plus, it looks cool.

Ideas for O:

  • Small onion rings
  • Zucchini or summer squash slices
  • Sausage slices
  • Small tomato slices
  • Peas in a circle
  • Round slices of narrow hot chili peppers

Ideas for X:

  • Baby carrots or asparagus pieces; you can cut a notch in them if it helps
  • Mushroom slices, sliced again lengthways and crossed
  • Shiitake slices, with some stem still intact, placed back-to-back
  • Four small pieces of broccoli
  • Two long, thin pieces of a cheese that doesn’t melt much or is added very late in the cooking process
  • Thin greens
  • Thin slices of bell peppers
  • Smoked salmon pieces

Here’s how to make it:

~

Tic-Tac-Toe Omelet

  • 2 eggs (per person)
  • a dash of cream or milk (per person)
  • butter
  • very thin asparagus
  • other appropriate vegetables or meats (see above)
  • other flavorings as you choose. Fish sauce, combined with Thai sausage, mushrooms, and hot chilis, for a Thai omelet? Fresh herbs?
  • a nonstick or very-well-seasoned small cast iron pan, about six to eight inches across

1. Choose your thin asparagus stalks for the board, and your X and O vegetables or meats. You can pick exactly the number you’ll need for your omelet(s), or you can just sauté a whole bunch and pick from them later when you cook the omelet. If you’re just making one or two, or if you’re doing this for the first time, I recommend laying out the board in an empty pan to get a sense of what size things should be. This also allows you, if you’re making it solo and are extra nerdy, to make sure you’re laying out a game that will fill the board but still be logical; you can write it down if it helps.

Plus, this part is pretty:

2. Lightly sauté all these vegetables and meats in butter. Set aside.

3. You want to make the omelets one at a time. Beat two eggs with a dash of milk or cream. Set pan on low heat (I alternated between the 2 and the LOW settings). Add more butter, let it melt, and pour egg mixture into pan.

4. Lay out the tic-tac-toe, placing each piece gently into the eggs. Place whole asparagus first, then asparagus pieces. Then fill in the board. On low, this should take nearly the amount of time it takes the eggs to cook, but keep a lid handy in case it doesn’t. You should cover it if you still see liquidy raw egg in places like so:

In that case, cover the omelet for the last 30 seconds or minute if needed.

5. Turn off the heat and slide out of the pan onto a plate. Serve immediately.

6. Optional: If you prepped a bunch of extra sautéed veggies, you can serve them on the side.

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I went to Lake Chelan for an overnight this week and serendipitously caught the Chelan Farmers Market. One vendor was selling all sorts of gorgeous produce for ridiculously cheap: huge bunches of baby carrots for a dollar each, generous bundles of herbs for fifty cents, and bags of ripe red currants for a dollar.

I asked her about her favorite things to do with currants. She likes adding them into salads, but also anything that allows them to brown a little, like tossing them onto grilled meats or into a hot pan in which meat has just been cooked.

They might end up going on some chicken or lamb later this week, but last night I tried out using them with salmon. I broiled it with butter, tarragon, and currants on top. While that was cooking, I made a sauce kind of inspired by beurre blanc (whose consistency I still can’t get right, but I’m working on it). I used a big handful of fresh tarragon in the sauce, poured it out of the pan, and then turned the heat up high to cook the currants. Try it out and tell me what you think.

~

Salmon with Tarragon-Red-Currant-Butter Sauce

  • about a pound of fresh salmon fillet
  • two handfuls of fresh tarragon
  • two handfuls of fresh red currants
  • butter
  • sweet onion or shallot: one if shallot-sized, or half an onion if larger
  • two dashes of white wine or white wine vinegar
  • juice of one lemon
  • salt

(Here are my tips on how to cook salmon perfectly.)

1. Set oven to broil. Place salmon on a baking sheet or dish. Add fresh tarragon leaves. Spread thin squares of butter all over the tops. Sprinkle on a few sprigs of red currants. Set in oven.

2. While salmon is cooking, prepare your sauce. Chop onion or shallot very fine. Cook it in butter on very low heat, adding more butter as it gets absorbed. Let it keep cooking.

3. If you’re using a thinner type of salmon, check it fairly quickly. You want salmon to cook just to the point where a butter knife slides into it easily and it’s a little translucent inside. Under the broiler, the tops are a little blackened here and there at this point usually. Take the salmon out while the onions are still cooking if it’s very thin.

4. When your onions are very clear and browned in a few spots, add more butter, lemon juice, and a dash of white wine or white wine vinegar. Cook a few minutes more.

5. Add the tarragon and stir. Turn off the heat and pour the sauce into a bowl for the moment.

6. Put the pan back on the heat with a little more butter. With the heat high, add the remaining currants. They will sizzle and the pan may start to brown. Add the other dash of white wine or white wine vinegar and let it cook a moment until it smells more like a sauce, less like wine or vinegar. It will be reddish. Pour this into the bowl of sauce.

7. Arrange salmon on a platter. Drizzle the sauce over and around it. Garnish with fresh tarragon and slices of lemon, if you like. Serve immediately.

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Thanks to Sarah for sending on this article. Apparently, New York State is telling farmers market cheese vendors that they can no longer cut cheese to order or cut samples at farmers markets. To do so would require, as stores require, a license to process food as well as industrial kitchen infrastructure on premises (under that little tent…).

This isn’t a WA issue yet for cheese. But it’s worth discussing.

First, as someone in the field of public health, I understand where these kinds of policies come from. Public safety matters. Public safety involves avoiding contamination, something that happens best when we have strong policies in place so consumers can see how their food is being produced or processed and trust how it’s being handled when they can’t see it.

But sometimes, in an effort to carry out the letter of the law and avoid exceptions, we end up with policies that make it harder for small producers to operate, or for customers to buy healthy food. We also end up applying policies in places they don’t really fit. We see this with regulations on carefully-produced, small-farm raw dairy, with vending at farmers markets, and with a lot of small-scale farming and food selling.

When small producers give up their farms and dairies, or customers buy fewer products at farmers markets, there are consequences for health, more definite (if less visible) than someone, say, getting sick and attributing their illness to mis-sliced cheese at a store. Less small-farm cheese sold at markets means less consumption of high-vitamin dairy, often from grass-fed cows.

Not all cheese at markets has to be cut. The picture above is for one of my favorite cheese makers, in Oregon (that one with a stalk of wheat sticking through it is basically Debs-crack). But a lot of the less-expensive cheeses are sold by the weight. If you only want to buy a little bit of cheese, or can only afford a little, or want some of a hard cheese but don’t want, say, your own ten-pound wheel of cheddar, you need it cut. And it should be cut to order, so it stays fresh and so the customer can choose the amount.

So, what to do? Advocate for exceptions to industrial rules that shouldn’t affect small producers or farmers markets. Get legislators and public health officials out to farmers markets, over to dinners. Communicate, connect, listen and explain. Make an emotional connection to markets, to healthy food. With emotional connections, common ground, and expression of understanding for where over-applied public health policies are coming from, we can start to make some gains instead of losing ground.

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I had to learn to like liver.

It fit perfectly the definition of “an acquired taste” that I came up with as a teenager: A food that tastes strange to you, but you keep wanting to taste it because there’s something compelling about its strangeness. Then, one day, you like it.

After I’d already learned to like liver, I had the chicken liver pâté at Le Pichet (their sister café, Café Presse, also has it). I realized it would be the perfect gateway food to liking liver. It’s whipped light and full of butter, flavorful but not so strong as straight-up liver is.

I got the basic version of the recipe I now use from my friend Tatiana, and then modified it after reading Julia Child and adjusting for the flavors I like.

To make this, you want to use  livers from chickens raised organically and on pasture, since the liver acts as a filter, and since pasture-raised chickens will have livers (and eggs/fat/meats) full of important vitamins and good fatty acids. Organ meats from properly-raised animals are some of the most nutritious foods you can get. I get my livers at the U-District farmers market.

And if you’re a first-time liver-eater, use a lot of butter. Heck, even if you’re not, use a lot of butter.

The final product can be eaten straight, can accompany a salad, can be spread on toast, or can be served with vegetables like snap peas or spring carrots for dipping.

~

Chicken Liver Mousse or Pâté

  • 1 lb chicken livers
  • milk, about 1 cup
  • 1-2 sweet spring onions
  • salt
  • pepper
  • a few leaves of sage
  • a generous handful of thyme
  • at least two sticks of butter
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • 1/3 cup alcohol like sherry or brandy or cognac

1. Soak the chicken livers in milk for an hour or so. This is to remove an edge of bitter or strong flavor from the liver. There is debate online about whether this works, but I like the flavor after doing so.

2. Drain the livers. Chop the onion. Cook very slowly on low heat in a lot of butter (about half a stick). Add a little salt and a few leaves of the thyme.

3. When the onion is completely clear, with a few edges starting to think about browning, turn the heat up, add more butter, and cook the livers. Sauté on all sides until browned, but still pink in the middle. Add the sage and thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Add the alcohol and stir. Let the alcohol bubble.

5. Pour all of this into a food processor with the cream and the other stick of butter (or more if you like). Process well; it should be very smooth. If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a blender, but the result may be a little more chunky. You can press it through a fine sieve with a wooden spoon if it isn’t perfectly smooth.

6. Refrigerate it. The mixture will be fairly liquidy, but will get more solid in the fridge overnight. This is true for many a mousse; even chocolate mousse should be fairly liquidy when you put it in the fridge. But, for the love of all things delicious, don’t confuse this container with chocolate mousse. Especially if you’re trying to learn to love liver.

Serve with toasts, dipping vegetables, or salad.

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These are the collard greens that once spiraled me into full-blown Collard-Related Astonishingly Voracious Eating (CRAVE), a rare-but-not-so-serious ailment. Symptoms include compulsively buying collard greens and garlic, and longingly glancing at Brazilian restaurants. I still relapse pretty frequently.

Spring collards are happily waving their round leaves at me in farmers market stalls these days. Helllooo, collards…

I first tasted collards like these at Tempero do Brasil, a nice Brazilian restaurant on the Ave in Seattle. They’re sliced into as fine ribbons as the knife can manage, and then sautéed simply with garlic, fat and salt. There’s a version with bacon, which I imagine is delicious for those who eat bacon.

I started making these at home, and discovered they’re incredibly simple and quick to make. Just chop the garlic up finely. Use at least a few cloves, and more if you’re a garlic enthusiast. To slice the collards, tear or cut out the stem, all the way up to the top third or so of the leaf where the stem is no longer bulky at all. then, slice the leaf lengthways once. Finally, roll the leaf up and cut very fine slices off the end of the roll until you have thin ribbons of garlic. Sauté in olive oil, salting to taste.

Collards are thicker than a lot of other greens, and so they hold their chewable texture well. They’re also smooth, giving a nice surface area for garlic, salt, and other flavors to show off.

Because they’re sautéed quickly, these collards stay bright green and retain a fresh, bright flavor. That means they work well as a side dish, providing a refreshing and contrasting taste between bites of fish stews, black beans, chicken dishes, or spicy meats.

~

Brazilian-Inspired Collard Greens with Garlic

  • 1 bunch collard greens
  • garlic to taste — between 3 cloves and 1 head
  • olive oil
  • salt

1. Chop garlic fine.

2. Remove ALL stems from collards, all the way up the leaf until the stem is no longer thick.

3. Slice the leaves once lengthways

4. Roll the leaf up and cut VERY thin slices off the roll. Repeat this with all leaves.

5. Heat oil. Add garlic and stir a few seconds. Add collards and stir well, coating the leaves. Sprinkle in salt.

6. Collards should cook only a few minutes. They’re done when all the dull, green raw-looking parts of the leaves have transformed into a bright, glossy, slightly-wilted green. Taste for salt and serve hot.

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My friend Sani and I tried an experiment in honor of the ongoing Soda Free Sundays campaign. We decided to choose two Thai herbs and see whether we could turn them into delicious, unsweetened soda.

Contestant #1: Pandanus leaf, otherwise known as bai toey. It’s a long, thin leaf. If you’ve eaten Thai food at Pok Pok in Portland, it’s what they use to make their water taste like toasted rice. Their water is delicious. Nomination: bai toey! Sani and I were both pretty sure bai toey would work.

Contestant #2: Kaffir lime leaf, otherwise known as bai makroot. It’s what you see finely chopped and tossed into panang curry or tom yam soups or things like that. It’s one of my favorite flavors, but not typically something you’d think of for a beverage. Sani and I were both skeptical, but it was my idea and she was polite enough not to tell me she was skeptical.

Results:
The pandanus/bai toy was frozen, not fresh, because apparently it’s hard to find fresh here. Maybe that’s why it didn’t work. The beverage tasted like wet leaves.

The kaffir lime leaf/bai makroot, on the other hand, made amazingly delicious soda! Subtle and refreshing. Would go great with Thai food or as something to bring along on a picnic.

The caveat:
These ingredients aren’t local. But! You can actually grow your own bai makroot/kaffir lime leaf tree. I’d love to pick these fresh any time I want. However, I’m not so sure about growing pandanus.

Kaffir Lime Leaf Soda (Unsweetened)

  • 5-6 pairs of kaffir lime leaves (they’re often attached)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 cup of seltzer/club soda/soda water (unsweetened)
  • ice

1. Tear up the lime leaves. Throw them in a pot with the water. Boil for 5-10 minutes, or until it smells strong.

2. Cool the liquid, with the leaves still in it. You can stick it in the freezer or add ice to it or whatever works for you.

3. Add it to two glasses, with the seltzer, in a ratio of about two cups of the leaf water to one cup of seltzer. One strange thing we noticed: If you add the leaf water first, and then pour in the soda, you’ll see that the leaf water has a faint green color that disappears instantly when it touches soda. You can add back in a few leaf bits for color and charm.

Enjoy!

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In case you haven’t heard, the Seattle City Council has ratified the Seattle Farm Bill Principles, a set of broad priority recommendations for the 2012 U.S. Farm Bill as a means of reforming the food system. I just added my name as a supporter and hope you will too (link to do so is here).

Why does it matter what one city thinks of the Farm Bill? Federal food policy affects us locally, of course. It affects the cost of food, which foods are subsidized, how much money goes to those in need of assistance with food costs. It affects our health, how our city and state function, our agricultural system, all aspects of our food system.

But the cool thing about Seattle stepping up and putting the Farm Bill Principles document out there is that it can inspire other cities, states, and communities–urban, rural or suburban–to get on board and voice their support too. It has to start somewhere, and it started here. Frankly, Seattle has a bit of a reputation for not putting its neck out and doing something risky and potentially-confrontational. That reputation makes me extra proud that Seattle has the guts to take leadership on this.

It has a lot to do with our thriving food movement, and with leaders who walk their talk, like long-time food-movement supporter City Councilmember Richard Conlin. We have nice coalitions in Seattle of farmers, food justice activists, cooks, chefs, farmers market coordinators, health advocates, and so forth.

I like the principles overall. They’re a bit vague, which makes sense in that they focus on the goals and outcomes changes to the Farm Bill would produce, although I would really love specific language about things like trading in some of the subsidies for corn, and instead subsidizing or supporting healthy meat, eggs, dairy and vegetables from sustainable farms. The detrimental effects of corn on this country’s health can’t be stated strongly enough. It’s true that it’s the basis of livelihood for many large-scale farmers in the U.S., but tobacco is also an important source of income for some farmers, and we’ve learned not to shy away from talking about its detrimental effects. Corn costs us money down the line in health care and environmental consequences.

Anyway, who knows? Perhaps this year we’ll see a countrywide coalition of communities throwing their support behind the farm bill principles, or building on these principles and adding additional goals.

The Seattle Farm Bill Principles, pasted from the website, are here:

SEATTLE FARM BILL PRINCIPLES

  1. Health-centered Food System

    The driving principle of the Farm Bill must be the relationship of food and ecologically sound agriculture to public health. Food that promotes health includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, dairy, and lean protein. Improving the health of the nation’s residents must be a priority in developing policies, programs, and funding.

  2. Sustainable Agricultural Practices

    Promote farming systems and agricultural techniques that prioritize the protection of the environment so that the soil, air, and water will be able to continue producing food long into the future. Integral to both domestic and global agricultural policies should be agricultural techniques and farming practices that enhance environmental quality, build soil and soil fertility, protect natural resources and ecosystem diversity, improve food safety, and increase the quality of life of communities, farmers and farm workers.

  3. Community and Regional Prosperity and Resilience

    Enhance food security by strengthening the viability of small and mid-scale farms, and increasing appropriately scaled processing facilities, distribution networks, and direct marketing. Develop strategies that foster resiliency, local innovation, interdependence, and community development in both rural and urban economies. Opportunities that create fair wage jobs are key to a strong economy.

  4. Equitable Access to Healthy Food

    Identify opportunities and reduce barriers by developing policies and programs that increase the availability of and improve the proximity of healthy, affordable, and culturally-relevant food to urban, suburban, and rural populations. Protect the nation’s core programs that fight food insecurity and hunger while promoting vibrant, sustainable agriculture.

  5. Social Justice and Equity

    The policies reflected in the Farm Bill impact the lives and livelihoods of many people, both in the U.S. as well as abroad. Develop policies, programs, and strategies that support social justice, worker’s rights, equal opportunity, and promote community self-reliance.

  6. Systems Approach to Policymaking

    It is essential to reduce compartmentalization of policies and programs, and to approach policy decisions by assessing their impact on all aspects of the food system including production, processing, distribution, marketing, consumption, and waste management. Consider the interrelated effects of policies and align expected outcomes to meet the goal of a comprehensive health-focused food system.

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The situation

When planning for a recent Jewish community bonfire and barbecue, the organizers had a dilemma: We wanted to serve meat at the  barbecue, and wanted it to be kosher so it was accessible to members of our community who keep kosher. But we also wanted it to be sustainable meat: local, pasture-raised, small-farm-sourced, never sent to a (grain-intensive) feedlot. While I’m not religious, I see a lot of value in making sure sustainability is accessible—culturally, financially, etc. This isn’t always easy. But how hard could it be to find kosher, sustainable meat from Washington, or at least from the West Coast?

It turns out it’s impossible. For now, at least.

There are four sources of small-farm, pasture-raised kosher meat in the U.S. and they’re all on the East Coast. Producing kosher meat is difficult, involving, among other things, employing a shochet, a religious slaughterer who has gone through extensive training and is a devout Jew. There is also more demand for kosher food on the East Coast. Due to low availability of kosher products, on the West Coast we’re a little more used to settling for what kosher products we can get.

Why grass-fed/pasture-raised meat? Cows and chickens raised on pasture and not sent to a feedlot are just more environmentally-friendly, but also yield delicious meat higher in good-quality fats and important fat-soluble vitamins it’s hard to get elsewhere. It’s also a great way to support small farmers, and not just large producers.

We used some meat from one of the East Coast sources for the event so people could taste it, but obviously it’s not sustainable to fly meat in from the East Coast every time we want it, or even more than once or twice. Other options abound for Jews who keep kosher, of course. Some people follow vegetarian diets and eat plenty of eggs and milk from local farm animals raised on pasture. Scaly fish is kosher and we live in a great region for fish. We’re also lucky to live in an area where a wide range of vegetables and fruit can be grown. But people choose to eat meat for many reasons, and there’s no reason people should have to choose between keeping kosher, eating sustainably, and eating meat.

What can we do?

 Some people and organizations, like the UW’s Hillel/JConnect program are trying to make kosher sustainable meat happen in the Northwest, or to connect with others trying to make this happen. They may even bring a shechter in to produce and freeze a supply of kosher sustainable meat, working with local, small farms which raise animals on pasture.

But they need support and help to make this happen. This means other people and organizations to figure out how to do this, what the logistics will be, and how to make it happen. They also need to know that there’s interest.

Specifically, they need help:

-      Getting the word out to people who keep kosher

-      Helping with logistics (finding a shechter, figuring out meat storage, etc)

-      Connecting with farms

-      Showing interest in purchasing sustainable kosher meat if it becomes available

For interest or more information, contact Josh Furman at JoshF (at) hilleluw (dot) org or 206.527.1887 x221 

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Here’s a neuroscience film I made, for fun and for a science communications class. I used footage from the San Francisco Ferry Building farmers market, since I was meeting up with my parents there. Since farmers market produce features heavily, I’m calling it an excuse to post the film here. I’m going for, uh, charmingly amateur. Enjoy!

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If you’re near the UW campus in Seattle, don’t miss Robert Gottlieb’s talk tonight. He’s one of two authors of Food Justice. CAGJ (Community Alliance for Global Justice) is organizing the event. The event is  from 7-8:30 at UW Architecture Hall 147, Grant Lane and Stevens Way, Seattle, WA.

I haven’t read the book yet. I’m drawn to it, though, because it highlights the justice and access parts of the food movement, looking at the food movement though a lens of social justice. He talks about global, systemic problems like obesity, and seems like he’s not afraid to hold fast food chains and beverage companies accountable.

Check it out tonight if you’re around!

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I’m at this marvelous conference for the next few days, discussing food policy issues, both local and national. This includes topics like farm-to-cafeteria work, food access and hunger issues, and even local and national visions from the food movement about changing the Farm Bill. Seattle is a bit of a leader on this topic; check out the Seattle Farm Bill Principles here. Other cities are considering supporting these principles or developing similar ones.

If you have particular food policy questions, local or national, of interest you’d like me to bring up or find out about here, send me a message. If you’re here too, drop a note and say hi.

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I’m all for making things from scratch, and I think it would be fun someday to make my own Thai curry pastes. But I have to say, there’s something wonderful about having pre-made curry paste on hand. Curry paste + coconut milk + seasonal vegetables + meat = one of my favorite formulas for a fast and flavorful meal.

There are actually a few Northwest companies making their own really tasty curry pastes. Thai Curry Simple right by the International District light rail/bus tunnel stop sells their own pastes, although they contain soy sauce, which isn’t gluten-free, so I can’t eat them. I’ve been buying Thai & True, a Portland-based company’s paste at Whole Foods and other stores. It has good flavor and simple ingredients. (Note, I’m not endorsing any of these products. I don’t do endorsements; I just eat stuff.)

Last week, I found myself with panang curry paste on hand, some fresh asparagus, spring carrots, and shiitakes from the farmers market, and a lamb shoulder chop. Less than fifteen minutes later, I had dinner. If you’re short on time, and heavy on asparagus, try this recipe out. You can substitute in other vegetables, of course. This can be served over rice or just eaten with a spoon. I did the latter.

~

Panang Curry with Lamb, Asparagus, Shiitake and Carrot 

serves 2

- 1 tablespoon (more or less to taste) panang curry paste

- 1/2 can coconut milk

- 1 lamb shoulder steak (or 2 if you’re both really hungry)

- a handful fresh shiitake mushrooms

- 1/8 – 1/4 lb fresh asparagus

- small bunch small spring carrots

- 2-4 kaffir lime leaves (buy in an Asian market and keep in your freezer)

- coconut oil

- fish sauce

1. Prepare vegetables: Remove hard parts from asparagus and cut into bite-sized pieces. Slice mushrooms, discarding harder parts of stems. Cut carrots into small pieces. Cut lime leaves into thin strips with a sharp knife or scissors.

2. Prepare meat: Cut lamb shoulder meat off the bone, salvaging as much meat as possible. You can save the bone in the freezer for stock. Keep fat on the meat except the very outer-most layer of the outer fat, which is a bit too tough to chew.

3. Heat oil. Add carrots to pan and stir a few minutes, letting the edges brown slightly. Add mushrooms, a bit more coconut oil, and a dash of fish sauce. Cook until mushrooms brown and release out some of their oil.

4. Add curry paste to the oil. Let it bubble and cook. Stir it gently to spread it out.

5. Add meat and lime leaves to the oil/curry mixture. Let  meat brown on all sides. Add the asparagus shortly after.

6. Add the coconut milk and stir to combine. Let the curry simmer for just a few minutes; you don’t want to overcook the lamb. While it’s simmering, taste it for saltiness and adjust fish sauce as desired.

7. Serve immediately, as-is or over rice.

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Have you heard of Soda Free Sundays yet? It’s a community-wide challenge to skip soda and other sugar-loaded beverages one day per week, now through early June. I quite literally can’t remember the last time I drank soda, but I took the pledge anyway and am passing the message on. Whether you drink soda or not, I hope you’ll sign on and spread the word.

Why pledge to go soda-free once a week if I’m already soda-free? There are a few reasons.

1. Heightened awareness.

I generally notice the extensive presence of soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks, but somehow signing on to Soda Free Sundays made these drinks stand out in my visual field more than ever. I notice ironic or ironically-placed beverage advertising, like this sign over a small grocery in Seattle:

We should notice this stuff. Soda vending machines with giant Coke ads. Energy drinks next to school supplies. Soda at youth athletic events. None of this is coincidental. If you haven’t read Mike Jacobson’s article on Coke’s 125th anniversary yet, you should. He quotes from from Coca-Cola’s chilling ten-year vision statement: “We are creating new strategies that are winning over a massive new generation of teens to drive growth of Trademark Coca-Cola.” Soda is a significant contributor to obesity and diabetes, and adolescents drink a lot of soda. Is this really something Coke should brag about?

2. Reinforcing and spreading the message.

It’s one thing to say “I don’t want to drink sodas because they’re bad for me,” and quite another to look at sugar-loaded beverages as a community problem, a public health problem, rather than just an individual issue. Think about cigarettes and tobacco companies a second. There was a stretch of time between the realization that cigarettes are unsafe and the point by which society began limiting tobacco companies’ power and advertising abilities. Individual decisions are important, but signing on to a larger effort means signing on to the goal that we should reduce detrimental beverages as a society, and that we would like to start looking at the beverage industry the same way we look at tobacco companies.

3. An excuse to make up tasty and/or bizarre carbonated beverages.

Who needs a can of soda? Here’s the fun part. Once you discover that you can add carbonated water/seltzer to virtually any other beverage or flavor, the ideas start popping up. Here are a few:

Strawberry-rhubarb soda


Hands down, this was my favorite, and it was seasonal and so easy. In a pot, place (per serving) half a stalk of chopped rhubarb and a handful of frozen or ripe berries. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, turn down slightly, and cook for 10-15 minutes. Pour through a strainer into a glass. Cool, via refrigerator or freezer. Pour in carbonated water and stir. A great color and delicious.

Vanilla sort-of egg cream


Being originally from New York, I understand the recipe I’m about to give is blasphemous. A drink called an “egg cream” as we know it has neither egg nor cream. It is traditionally made from syrup (chocolate or vanilla, and most of which contains high fructose corn syrup these days), milk, and seltzer. No egg, no cream.

So… I broke most of those rules. (Note: this one includes raw egg.) I beat the yolk of a clean, farm-fresh pasture egg in the bottom of a glass with a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Then I added a quarter cup of half-and-half (Organic Valley is selling pasture-sourced half-and-half!). Finally, I added seltzer and stirred. It was incredibly delicious.

Weird mixtures


I also tried, for the hell of it, a soda made from the juice of half a blood orange, a teaspoon of rosewater, and a handful of basil. It was unusual, but I liked it.

Make up your own! Try lemon and/or lime beverages, ripe fruit as it comes into season (or you take from your freezer), cucumber, and spices.

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There’s a lot going on and much catching up to do. Three things first!

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Raw Milk Symposium

If you’re near Bloomington, Minnesota this Saturday, May 7th 2011, don’t miss the first annual Raw Milk Symposium! There’s more information at http://RawMilkSymposium.org. Looking over the agenda, they do a nice job of balancing policy with nutrition and practical information. I wish I could be there!

~

Thoughts on the Raw Milk Movement

One of the things I find most interesting about the raw milk movement is how really politically diverse we are. It’s so diverse, in fact, that I think some of us sometimes run the risk of alienating each other, partly because we’re used to working on different sides of very polarizing issues, but also because we use some really politically different arguments to advocate for access to safe, grass-fed raw milk. There’s a libertarian edge to some of the movement, and while libertarianism (“government shouldn’t get involved” philosophy) passionately inspires some, it also strongly alienates others. And there’s not just diversity within the movement: when it comes to raw milk, some of us disagree with others in our political camps or even in our professional fields.

What do we do?

I’m personally very liberal and admit being put off by much of libertarian ideology in other areas. But I’m really, really inspired by the potential for a diverse group of allies to work together on this movement. We’re stronger with a lot of different voices making a case together. Also, other political movements can learn from how we find common ground with each other. We don’t have to agree about guns, taxes, social programs, health care, or other issues. Perhaps finding common ground on even one issue as small as raw milk will make us realize that finding common ground is really the best way to start building coalitions with each other and even, sometimes, learning or being open to unexpected ideas.

Compassion and empathy make a good start, and that includes compassion and empathy for people we disagree with. I’m in public health, where a great deal of my colleagues are strongly opposed to raw milk, their view being that pasteurized milk is just as good, that pasteurization solved a public health crisis, and that any large-scale intervention to address a health problem is a good thing. I see where they’re coming from, but I also know how to respond to and reason with this perspective

Another good start: Choose our words carefully. If you’re working with a politically diverse movement or coalition, be aware of language that may fire up some in the political spectrum and alienate others. You can acknowledge this honestly, and you can use phrases that inspire/reach different people. Example: if you know you have liberal, conservative, and libertarian members of your coalition, and that each of those groups believes in your issue for a slightly different reason, take time to acknowledge the perspectives of all groups. First, listen to members of all groups and find out where they’re coming from. Then, come up with language together, something like, offhand, “Some see raw milk limitations as an invasion of privacy, some see it as a big-business threat to small farmers, and others are concerned that limitations on any healthy food end up disproportionately affecting the people who need healthy food the most.” Using only one of those arguments, instead of all three, could alienate some political sectors, whereas putting them together makes us see the intersections of our perspectives.

Your thoughts?

~

Estrella Farm Update

I got Kelli’s update a few weeks ago and totally overlooked sharing it. I’m sorry, Kelli! It’s up now. By the way, I talked to Kelli and Anthony about the CSA and it sounds pretty fantastic. And if I ate pork, I’d so buy their pork. – Debs

Spring/summer 2011 CSA    

Four months have passed since our cheese making operation was shut down by authorities, and we have finally come to the conclusion that it will not be possible to move forward in that same direction at this time. We never had any reported illness, we regularly tested for pathogens and we did our best to provide a safe product of the very highest quality. But the legal situation has made it all but impossible to continue.

We have decided to diversify on our farm with a vegetable CSA and to expand our milk fed and free range pork operation. Fortunately we have experience in these areas as well.

We miss our customers and hope to re-unite with many in this, our new endeavor. Hopefully cheese making will resume at some point, but for now it’s very important for us to not give up and to keep farming.

As challenging as everything has been, we’re encouraged by the outpouring of support we’ve received, and by the possibility of continuing to farm. We cannot let the interests of those who have a private agenda, and those who would curtail our liberties, take precedence over our right to farm, and choose what to eat.

We are eager to continue working the land, taking care of animals, and feeding people with the most nutritious and tasty foods possible. In short, making a difference in people’s lives, just as in cheese making.

Farm Offerings
In addition to the vegetable CSA shares, we plan to make the following available at CSA drop points:
*Eggs, free range and traditionally fed with non GMO grains, livestock kale, turnips, and mangel beets. (late summer 2011)
*USDA beef and milk fed pork

On the Farm
“Farmer for a Day” includes a full day (starting at 6:00 AM) of helping with everything taking place on the farm that day. May include milking cows and goats, feeding animals, collecting eggs, caring for rabbits and chicks, working in the gardens, assisting with home cheese making/ butter making, butchering, etc.
$100 per person per day, or $200 for a family of any size.

Shares Include
Full shares include $30.00 worth of vegetables per week. (We can’t use the word “organic” I am told unless we are certified organic, but I will say that we don’t/ have never used insecticides or chemical fertilizers on our farm.) Orders will be delivered to drop sites in and around Seattle. Expect a variety of seasonally available veggies per box. A June box could include spinach, radishes, snap peas, baby salad mix, arugula, baby beets, carrots, new potatoes and sunflower shoots. A late August box could include sweet corn, cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, green beans, broccoli, zucchini, lettuces, edible flowers, berries, etc! November is the time for winter squashes, carrots, beets, turnips, Swiss chard, kale, cabbage, parsnips, and potatoes, along with the salad mixes. We will include recipes to use with veggies you may not have tried before, prepare to be surprised and find many new things you will love!

A few more things…
Drop points will be supplied with a substitution box for those desiring to exchange an item in their box. Please have someone pick up your share if you are unable to get to your drop point, sorry no refunds. Remember there are risks involved in farming, there are no guarantees when dealing with mother-nature, humans, and animals. We are committed to providing the best service possible and will do our best to “make it right” if we encounter any kind of disaster. Please address any questions or concerns with us as soon as possible so we can provide you with the best customer service possible, along with the best foods WA has to offer. We are honored and grateful to work with you.

Sign up Form
A limited number of shares will be available, please contact us prior to sending payment to confirm a drop point near you.

Sign up for:                          Price
__ 24 week Full Share       $720    feeds family of four, June-November
__24 week half share        $360   feeds two, June-November

Both options include FREE “Farmer for a Day” opportunity, for an individual or family, if paid in full by April 15th, 2011

Name______________________________________
Address  ______________________________________
Phone ______________________________________
E-mail

Return to:
Anthony and Kelli Estrella
Estrella Family Creamery
659 Wynoochee Valley Rd.
Montesano, WA 98563
360.249.6541
efccheese@aol.com

http://www.estrellafamilycreamery.com

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Slaughterhouses have been declining in the Bay Area and around the country, according to the recent New York Times article  Slaughterhouse Shortage Stunting Area’s Eat-Local Movement. This is, the article explains, both an effect and a cause of the national transition from small, sustainable producers of meat to large ones.

Here in Washington State, with the recent closure of Thundering Hooves (whose owners are restarting and restructuring their business, now called Blue Valley Meats), and with the growing interest in grass-fed meat, it seems we need to think about what it takes to help small- and mid-sized producers succeed. Apparently, one of the barriers is access to a nearby slaughterhouse/processing facility.

One local producer of sustainable meat and dairy is working on an answer. Sea Breeze Farm is looking to buy Thundering Hooves’s old processing equipment and open a processing facility on Vashon Island, available for use by other local meat producers. It’s an expensive undertaking, in the tens of thousands of dollars, but not so expensive as it would be without the opportunity from Thundering Hooves. Sea Breeze is raising funds from supporters to accomplish this goal.

If you’d like to invest in our region’s food sovereignty and ability to support local producers of sustainable, nutritious meat, consider donating to this project. Contact information is at the Sea Breeze Farm website. You can also talk to them at the U-District or Ballard farmers markets this weekend.

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You may have recently seen this graphic depicting general changes in American caloric intake from 1970 to 2005. Take a look if you haven’t. The graphic is very nice visually, but while it accurately portrays USDA data, it’s also inadvertently misleading. USDA’s own categories (shown in the graphic) are very broad and general, but the USDA dataset also includes a more detailed page for each of the categories. And it’s in those details that the trends and changes in the American diet really start to become apparent.

The infographic suggests that fats, with some contributions from grains, sugars, and meats, have accounted for the largest share of extra calories in our diet. But in the details, a few things stand out: First, the fat increase (no surprise here) does not reflect any increase in traditionally-demonized saturated/animal fats, but in vegetable oils and shortening. While the infographic shows a modest increase in sugars (50ish calories), the detailed data reveal a sizable rise in corn-based sweeteners. As for meats, the increase is largely attributable to a rise in poultry consumption, not in often-demonized red meat. These details matter, because the years 1970-present (especially starting in the mid-80s) are also the years obesity in this country has increased dramatically, and too many people still blame the wrong parts of our diet.

I’ve created a slightly-more-rudimentary set of graphics depicting the data from 1970, 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, and 2005 with key details. They’re busier than I’d like, and bar graphs, which I’ve used in the past, show these data better, but I wanted the shapes to correspond to the original graphic, with more detail added. Keep an eye on which sweeteners and fats increase during this period, and which do not. Also, note that much of the dietary increase can be traced back to grains: grains themselves, grain/seed oils, corn sugars and even (although not depicted here) grain-fed meat. Mmm, corn.

(Caveats: the USDA data are not perfect. Some of the fluctuations year-to-year may reflect changes in data collection methods, and the data are themselves somewhat estimated. Also, these are population-level data, which limits the conclusions we can draw about individual health. However, the increase in certain ingredients is of such a scale that it is absolutely worthy of our attention.)

~

Average daily per capita calories from the U.S. food availability, adjusted for spoilage and other waste

Images are original and may be shared freely with attribution. Data source: USDA/Economic Research Service. Data last updated March 15, 2008. Image inspiration from the infographic cited above; please cite that too if sharing.


If you want the original jpegs of these images, send me an email. WordPress resizes these for the post, but the originals make it a bit clearer that the whole-diet circle is also growing. Although, to be fair, I don’t think the general increase in calories in our diet is what matters. Eating more can actually be an effect, and not just a cause, of obesity, as hormones like leptin, which should normally help the body regulate weight and appetite, cease to function properly. Plenty of cultures have thrived on high-calorie, high-fat diets. I’m more interested in what calories we’re eating than how many.


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It’s barely April, but I’m getting excited about October. The reason? An event called Food Day, scheduled for October 24th.

It’s being billed as an Earth Day for food, an opportunity to galvanize people from all parts of the food movement and engage new people. The event will include simultaneous activities in cities across the U.S. Organized by local communities, the events will highlight sustainable agriculture, nutrition, access to healthy and delicious food, and strategies to counter the marketing of detrimental junk foods. The focus is broad, ranging from recipe to policy.

That broad focus is part of why I’m excited. Most people working in the food and nutrition movement focus on one––or maybe two––of the core areas: nutrition (healthful or detrimental foods, sustainability, taste/recipes, or access. But, as I’ve often said, these should not be separate categories. Nutritious food is sustainable food, the biggest example of this being that the animals raised on pasture (sustainability) produce not just delicious foods, but fats and vitamins essential to human health. Access to these foods should be a right, not a privilege. When affordable food access is limited, junk food fills a gap.

This event is designed to emphasize that overlap and, ideally, to promote information-sharing between people who specialize in one or two of the aforementioned areas, but not all. It’s also a chance to ask our policymakers for specific changes, to educate and learn from our community, and to share some seriously tasty, local, sustainable eats.

To that end, Seattle: Start thinking about what kinds of events we can do here. The campaign is literally just being launched today, so there is a lot of time to plan. Considering that our mayor is on the event’s advisory council (the only mayor so far, I believe), considering all the people active in various parts of the food movement here, and considering all the delicious, fresh food that’s going to be available in October, I’m pretty sure Seattle can come up with something good.

~

The following is the press release for this event.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Many of the most prominent voices for change in the food movement and a growing number of health, hunger, and sustainable agriculture groups today announced plans for Food Day—nationwide campaign to change the way Americans eat and think about food. Organized by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Day will bring people together from across the country to participate in activities and events that encourage Americans to “eat real” and support healthy, affordable food grown in a sustainable, humane way.

Food Day will be observed on Monday, October 24, 2011 and will likely include a series of marquee events in Washington, New York City, San Francisco, and other major cities, and thousands of smaller events around the country.

“Food Day is designed to further knowledge, understanding and dialogue about critical topics in food, agriculture and nutrition—spanning the food chain from farm families to family tables,” said Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and an honorary co-chair of Food Day.  “The many activities and events spurred by Food Day will help foster a robust dialogue on how to promote better nutrition and health, lessen hunger and increase access to food, enhance opportunities for farm families and rural communities and conserve natural resources.  There are differing ideas and perspectives on these issues and surely we all benefit from discussions about the connections among food, farms, and health.”

Modeled on Earth Day, organizers hope Food Day will inspire Americans to hold thousands of events in schools, college campuses, houses of worship, and even in private homes aimed at fixing America’s food system.  A Food Day event could be as small as a parent organizing a vegetable identification contest to a kindergarten class—or as massive as a rally in a city park, with entertainment and healthy food.  Health departments, city councils, and other policymakers could use Food Day to launch campaigns, hold hearings, or otherwise address communities’ food problems.

The campaign hopes to agitate for progress on five central goals:

  • Reducing diet-related disease by promoting healthy foods
  • Supporting sustainable farms & stopping subsidizing agribusiness
  • Expanding access to food and alleviating hunger
  • Reforming factory farms to protect animals and the environment, and
  • Curbing junk-food marketing to kids

“In planning for Food Day, we’ve begun to bring together a lot of people with common interests in food issues, but who otherwise haven’t worked all that closely together,” said Michael F. Jacobson, who founded CSPI 40 years ago. “So whether your primary concern is human health, farm policy, or the quality of life in rural America, Food Day can be an opportunity to organize people together to solve local and national problems.”

Besides Jacobson, Food Day is led by honorary co-chairs Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and an advisory board that includes author Michael Pollan; prominent physicians including Caldwell Esselstyn, Michael Roizen, and David Satcher; nutrition authorities Walter Willett, Kelly Brownell, and Marion Nestle; public health expert Georges Benjamin; and chefs Nora Pouillon, Dan Barber, and Alice Waters.

National organizations such as the American Dietetic Association, the American Public Health Association, the Community Food Security Coalition, Earth Day Network, the Farmers Market Coalition, the Humane Society, the National Sustainable Agriculture Association, the Prevention Institute, Slow Food USA, and many city- and state-level organizations are planning on organizing or participating in Food Day events.

“Food Day is an opportunity to celebrate real food and the movement rising to reform the American food system,” Pollan said.

Eventually, FoodDay.org will let people type in their zip codes to find Food Day events near them—or to invite people to Food Day events of their own making.

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New hot-flash-pasteurization device allows infants to suckle without alleged risk

[Edited to add: Now that the date has passed, and most of you have figured it out anyway, I'll clarify that this was an April Fools' Day piece. Enjoy! -DG]

Readers –– I’m in Washington, DC this week, reporting the latest news from our nation’s capital.

WASHINGTON, 4.1.11. The Food and Drug Administration, long a critic of unpasteurized dairy, announced new restrictions today on a previously-unregulated form of sustenance: mother’s milk. The new rules, which require breast milk to be raised to a temperature of 161 °F (71.7 °C) and then cooled, will go into effect immediately. Women caught breastfeeding infants without first pasteurizing their milk will be subject to fines and, if found in continual violation, liquidation of their assets.

“It came to our attention that individuals were suckling directly from an unbleached nipple,” said FDA spokesman Arthur Steenow. “When we looked at data for the U.S. population as a whole, we realized there was a strong correlation between this intake of unpasteurized mother’s milk and other alarming symptoms, most notably emotional irritability, crying, incontinence, weak limbs, and even a lack of articulate, verbal communication. It became apparent that we needed to move forward with bold action steps immediately.”

While the battle over unpasteurized (also known as “raw”) milk has raged in bovine, caprine and even ovine territories, the inclusion of human milk in the conflict is new.

The exact origin of concerns over unpasteurized breast milk remains unclear. However, multiple sources cite a response to a common lament among breastfeeding women: sore, raw nipples. The FDA, these sources state, began investigating complaints about raw nipples in late 2008, when it stumbled upon the data mentioned by Steenow. After realizing hospitals had received multiple complaints about the raw nipples, the FDA decided to step in and nip the situation in the bud.

However, the agency isn’t planning to leave mothers and infants high and dry. In conjunction with Johnson & Johnson, the FDA is issuing a new product that will allow mothers to pasteurize the milk as it flows directly from the mother’s breast to the infant’s mouth. Known as Hot Mama, the device uses a technique called hot-flash-pasteurization to heat the milk quickly and cool it to a reasonable temperature. The plastic contraption will be available for $29.99 from local drugstores.

But some people aren’t exactly pumped about the news. Raw milk enthusiasts and breastfeeding advocates around the country delivered thousands of signatures to the FDA, objecting to the regulations, and accusing the agency of milking the situation to its own advantage. Many local-food advocates were simply confused.

The FDA is nonplussed. One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, seemed less than empathetic to the public’s concerns. When asked what infants and mothers should do if they object to the new regulations, he shrugged. “It’s the law now,” he said. “Suck it up.”

For more information about the situation, please read the original press release.

Tomorrow: Used-car dealer on Aurora Ave North begins selling the Pacific Northwest’s first local lemons!

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I’m about a week late with this news: Thundering Hooves Ranch, which I think was the largest Washington State grass-fed beef supplier, has closed. We still have many great local grass-fed meat producers (Skagit River Ranch, Olson Farms, Sea Breeze, Stokesberry, etc, plus many who don’t sell at Seattle farmers markets but do take orders for CSAs or parts of/whole animals). Still, I’m curious what this says about the current state of (and the future of) access to grass-fed meats in Washington State.

There are two good Seattle Times pieces on the closure, here and here. Someone commenting on one of the articles wrote, “As I understand it from those who were involved, they would have been unable to survive as a small company given the position they were in.” There was a lot of demand for the meat, but there were debts, which seem hard to avoid in the risky business of farming and ranching, and with quick growth.

What does this mean? I’m curious to hear your perspective, especially, but not exclusively, if you’ve been in the business of raising/selling pastured meats yourself. Is the answer to support the growth and sustenance of many smaller grass-feeding ranches, so none is overwhelmed by scale or quick growth, or has such a wide-reaching effect if it closes? Are there ways to bring down the costs for producers? Is the issue that it’s much more expensive to process meats as a small, family ranch than just to sell one’s livestock to a feedlot or intermediary?

Ideally, our system of food subsidies in this country would change. Instead of subsidizing wheat, corn, and soy, contributing to the abundance of cheap-and-unhealthy food that’s costing us more in the long run as we get sick––obesity-related illness makes up a large share of medical costs in the U.S.–– I’d rather we subsidized sustainable producers of vegetables and of pasture-raised livestock for meat, dairy and eggs. That doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon, especially given current agricultural priorities. The U.S. House Agriculture Committee, for instance, just endorsed a letter to the budget chairman advocating for saving grain subsidies and cutting food stamps. However, defeatist attitudes aren’t going to get us anywhere; the unlikelihood of succeeding in advocating for different subsidy/spending priorities doesn’t excuse us from the need to try.

The bottom line seems to be that we need more producers of sustainable meat, and we need to find ways to support those producers, whether that’s via subsidies or increased purchasing, or another means. I’m going to start talking to farmers I know, but, in the meantime, I’d love to hear your perspective.

~

EXTRAS:

Terminology note: You may have noticed Thundering Hooves’s website used the term “pasture-finished” to describe their meat. In case you’re not familiar with this, that means that the cows weren’t just raised on grass (or hay in winter) and then sent to a feedlot, they was raised on grass for their entire lives. Cows that get sent to a feedlot typically only spend 3-6 months there, but that’s enough to change the fatty-acid profile of the meat pretty significantly. Some producers advertise their meat as grass-fed, or mostly grass-fed, and then find euphemistic ways to say the cows got sent to a feedlot for a while. Grass-finishing, or pasture-finishing, means that the cows weren’t sent to a feedlot.

Cows frolicking video: I adored this video from Tom Philpott of Grist.org. It shows cows in England frolicking as they’re let out into the spring pasture for the first time after a winter spent eating dried grass and hay when there was no pasture to munch. Remember, the fat from animals on spring pasture, when the grass is growing quickly, is particularly high in vitamins like vit A and vit K2 (MK-4). It’s also very yellow and extraordinarily delicious.

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