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Hey everyone —

I’ve been finishing my fiction thesis so I apologize for the delay in blog posts.  Interesting stuff coming up, including from some great conversations I had and things I learned at the Nutrition & Metabolism Society’s recent conference.  But for the next week or two at least, my thesis has first dibs on my soul/time/etc.

On that note, I’m reading a short story (not food-related) tonight at Castalia, the UW reading series at Hugo House on Capitol Hill.  Information is here.  Hugo House is at 1634 11th Avenue, next to Cal Anderson Park. The reading starts at 8 pm. Feel free to come!

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Ground lamb continues to be one of my favorite ingredients.  It’s fatty, versatile, delicious, available from local farms, and a compliment to great spices or a comforting flavor on its own.

These breakfast patties are full of Persian-influenced flavors: cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, saffron, and parsley.  They’re great with yogurt or fresh sheep-milk cheese, with eggs, and with greens.  I made a refreshing green cabbage salad to go with them, tossed with yogurt, lemon juice and cumin.  Add a couple of fried eggs and you have a breakfast to sustain you for hours.

Play around a bit with this recipe — add other flavors you think would go well, add garlic if you like, try other herbs.  Ground walnuts or pistachios would be a delicious addition, as would a bit of finely-chopped dried fruit.  The egg is a nice binding agent and helps incorporate the spices, but the meat tastes good, and is firmer, without it.  Let me know if you find something else delicious; it’s hard to go wrong with ground lamb, at breakfast or any meal.

Persian-Spiced Lamb Breakfast Patties w/ Fried Eggs & Cabbage Salad

Patties

  • 1/2 pound ground lamb (PCC has Oregon grass-fed ground lamb.  Sea Breeze sometimes sells ground lamb.)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 onion, grated
  • a few pinches to taste of the following spices: ground cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, salt, pepper
  • a handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine
  • a few threads of saffron
  • 2 eggs per person, to fry
  • clarified butter, olive oil or beef tallow for frying
  • (see post above for other ingredients you might add)

(makes about eight small patties)

1. Beat one egg in a bowl.  Crush in threads of saffron, and add all spices, grated onion and chopped parsley.  Stir again until well mixed.

2. Mix in meet well, crushing with a fork to make sure it gets fully coated with egg mixture.

3. Ideally marinate at this point for a few hours or overnight, but you can skip this step if you want to make this at the last minute.

4. Heat butter or oil until hot but not smoking.  Make patties of the meat mixture a bit smaller than golf balls, and flat.  Fry on one side.  When brown, flip to the other side.

5. At this point, if there’s room in the pan, crack your eggs into the same pan and cover the whole thing with a lid.  The extra fat and liquid seeping out of the patties will cook and flavor the eggs nicely.  If there’s not room in the pan, don’t worry; just fry your eggs when you’re done.

6. Serve with cabbage salad or yogurt or tahini or sheep milk cheese.

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Simple cabbage salad

  • 1/8 head green cabbage, finely chopped
  • 3-4 Tablespoons of plain yogurt
  • a few squirts of lemon juice to taste
  • a pinch of salt
  • a pinch or two of cumin
  • a bit of finely chopped parsley

1. Mix all ingredients other than cabbage.  Taste and adjust flavors.

2. Chop the cabbage finely and add to the dressing.  Can be eaten right away or allowed to sit for the flavors to mix.

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A few weeks ago, I made an enormous batch of nettle pesto, using probably two and a half pounds of fresh nettles. My freezer is well stocked with containers of green deliciousness. I spread some of the pesto on some broiled salmon for Passover this year, and await many future uses.

But when I was done cooking the nettles to use in the pesto, running so many batches of leaves through the same pot of boiling water, I noticed the water was a deep green-yellow-brown color from the plants. I tasted it and immediately decided to put it in the freezer to save, it was so good. A concentrated version of the earthy, green springy flavor of nettles.

For Passover, to go along with my salmon, I hauled out a few quarts worth of the nettle broth to make a soup. I combined it with a simple vegetable stock — carrots, onions, leek greens, mushroom pieces, salt, pepper, and a parmesan rind. Together, the veggie stock and the nettle stock had a complex and well balanced flavor.

I added chopped carrots and lacinato kale to the soup, and made some Passover-friendly dumplings that, unlike matzah balls, were gluten free. Building off a delicious recipe for fennel dumplings in Deborah Madison’s great cookbook Local Flavors, I planned some parmesan/egg/saffron/quinoa-flour dumplings with chopped greens mixed in. They came out beautifully and balanced the soup. Here’s a general sense of what I did:

Nettle-Vegetable Broth with Saffron-Parmesan-Egg Dumplings (Passover-friendly)

  • 2 quarts nettle broth (blanch/quickly boil a lot of stinging nettles, then strain and save the water)
  • 2 quarts veggie stock or meat stock (include a parmesan rind if you’re making veggie stock)
  • 3 carrots
  • 1/2 head lacinato kale or your favorite green
  • any other vegetables you’d like in your soup
  • 1/3 cup almond flour, quinoa flour (if during Passover – Bob’s Red Mill carries this), rice flour or other
  • 1/4 cup parmesan, grated
  • 3 pinches saffron, crushed
  • 1/4 cup minced greens of any sort — Deborah Madison’s original fennel is too strong for this version, because it overpowers the nettles, although it is absolutely delicious otherwise. i used scallion tops, dandelion greens and kale, because that’s what I had around
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste

Prep: Heat up your veggie/meat broth and nettle broth in the same pot.

1. Heat milk and butter in pan.  Crush and stir in saffron threads, and add the salt and pepper.

2. When milk is simmering and butter is melted, add the minced greens, stir.

3. Add the flour, turn of the heat, and stir in quickly.

4. Add the eggs one at a time and stir well.

5. Add the parmesan and stir gently.

6. You should have a sticky batter.  Now, time to make the dumplings.  You can cook them right into your boiling soup, or into a pot of boiling water and then transfer them.  Drop in the batter, about a tablespoon or two per dumpling.  When a dumpling floats to the surface, flip it.  Let it cook about another 30 seconds, and then take it out and reserve on a plate.  When all dumplings are cooked, pour them (back) into the soup, and let it sit with the heat off until ready to serve.

Optional: Grate a little parmesan on the bowl of soup, or stir in a little nettle pesto.

Photo (c) Jessica Levine

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Locavores in Seattle will soon be able to get yet another staple of the day produced 100% locally:

Their coffee.

A partnership originally between Starbucks, Tully’s, Vivace and Puget Sound Fresh gained support from surprise partners Microsoft and Monsanto, meaning coffee beans will soon be growing right here in King County, both on the Redmond campus and on a farm in Carnation.

The key is the development of a coffee bean that thrives in a temperate, damp climate.  Monsanto led the research on this project, using serotonin from coffee drinkers in the rainy Northwest to modify the gene of a coffee bean indigenous to Aliwkut, a remote region of Bolivia.

The coffee grown on the Microsoft campus will be used for that company’s corporate cafeteria, a move many see as countering the attention Google and Facebook’s workplaces have received for offering free lunches.  Additional grounds will be packaged and included in a limited edition bundle with shipments of Microsoft Office software.  The brew will be called Microsoft Poured.

The innovation is largely being hailed by espresso lovers and local foods supporters in the Puget Sound region.  Capitol Hill resident Solomon Douglas sipped his octuple latte and commented, “I’m all in favor of it, if it guarantees the availability of espresso for the foreseeable future.” University of Washington student Juan Valdez looked confused and said, “Wait, I thought it was already grown here. Isn’t that why Seattle has so many coffee shops? I’m so confused; I haven’t had my espresso yet today.”

The coffee will be available at local co-ops and farmers’ markets, the Microsoft website, and a new CSA (Caffeine-Sustained Agriculture) delivery system.  There are plans to open a few coffee shops in the beginning of April of 2012, using locally produced milk and foam from the Friendly Foam Shop in the U-District.

Yet, there were critiques.  A representative of the Community Alliance for Global Justice hesitated and then said, “I don’t know.  I’m all for local foods.  But Monsanto?  A Carnation plantation?  Will the workers be treated well?  Can I have another mocha?”

Whether locally-grown coffee is a passing trend or here to stay, the excitement of the announcement is enough — almost — to keep us awake for now.

Tomorrow’s post: How to render your own squirrel fat!

(For more information on the topics in this post, please go here.)

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Many years ago, my friend Karyn was in my kitchen.  This was shortly after Passover.  She looked up at my cabinet, where lurked what I thought was an innocuous-looking little brownish-grey, narrow-winged moth, and said, “That’s a kitchen moth.  They’re going to infest all your grains.

This sounded implausible, and I made a joke about how it sounded like a plague of punishment for not following the rules of Passover fully, since I’m not really religious.  Strict observation of Passover involves getting rid of or sequestering/selling all your grains, as well as not eating grains. Kitchen moths also sounded a bit like the locusts and lice and frogs and cattle disease we refer to when we recite the Ten Plagues at Passover.

Then, a few weeks later, I picked up a bag of quinoa in the cabinet to discover it had tiny little holes in it, a dusty, tan substance at the bottom, some webbing, little moth eggs that looked disturbingly like quinoa, as well as some (ew) little larvae and dead moths.  Turns out the kitchen moths were in everything, and Karyn was right.

You may never have had kitchen moths, or you may have faced them over and over again.  They’re hard to get rid of and very common in the Pacific Northwest.  They can squeeze down the spiraled rings of tightly-closed glass jars that aren’t heat sealed, can bore into hard plastic containers (to say nothing of plastic packaging or bags), and could probably unlock and drive away your car if they were big enough.  They live not just in grains and flours, but in dried fruit, some spices, chocolate, pastas, and whatever else suits their fancy.

I don’t eat a lot of grains, but I do keep rices and beans pretty well stocked, as well as gluten free flours.  I try to be vigilant about kitchen moths, but I still see a few sometimes, and go through steps to get rid of them.

In honor of Passover, both for its traditions of cleaning house and getting rid of grains, and for its reference to plagues, I present you with:

How to Get Rid of Kitchen Moths

1. Search every food container in which they could possibly live, even if it’s made of glass.  Search flours, grains, dried fruit, spices, pastas, chocolate, nuts (the moths just attacked my almonds!) and all your pantry storage other than metal cans or heat-sealed jars, really.  If you see any trace of the moths (look for the dust that looks like sawdust near the bottom, larvae, webbing, and dead moths), throw the item out and take the garbage out immediately.  If you don’t see moth residue, set the item aside.

2. Freeze everything you’re not throwing out for 24-48 hours.  You can do this in batches if necessary while cleaning, but consider storing in the refrigerator the stuff that’s waiting for its turn in the freezer.

3. Clean everything.  Take shelves out of cabinets and wipe the edges; moths like to hide their eggs in hard-to-get-to places.  Clean your kitchen ceiling if you see any webbing or moth larvae.  Focus especially on any cabinet or drawer that has held food.

4. Kill or remove every single kitchen moth you see.

5. Repeat as necessary, especially when you start seeing moths again

NOTE: As a preventative measure, you can freeze any grains or flours when you bring them home from the store.  I don’t use a lot of grains, but I keep a pretty good supply of things like rice and lentils around, and I have my bag of gluten-free flours.  I store those all in the freezer in one big bag, because they’re expensive and it would be disheartening to have to throw them all away.

I will add that grains aren’t the best foods for us, particularly when not treated with soaking/sprouting/fermenting.  Maybe the moths are trying to tell us something.

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Do you know about JHarvest? It’s a local Jewish community CSA (community supported agriculture) project, one of many around the country sparked by Hazon.

Tomorrow at UW Hillel, 4745 17th Ave NE Seattle, WA, we’re having a potluck lunch to launch the start of the season. I’ll be judging dishes in the best use of local ingredients category, so make something delicious and head on over. Sunday, March 21, 2010 at 12:00pm until 1:30pm. Everyone’s welcome.

Information on the event is available here.

I’ve written before about the link between Judaism and sustainable food — that, in essence, the idea of keeping kosher is largely about eating in a meaningful and thoughtful way, and that there’s a lot of basis in Jewish culture for connecting with land and working to keep human impact on Earth more sustainable.  You don’t have to be religious, by typical definitions of that word, to appreciate a cultural basis for these things.

Here’s a little more information on Jharvest, from their website:

How it works:

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, where members commit to buying a share to Oxbow farm for the growing season and pick up a weekly box of fresh, organic produce at Hillel at The University of Washington.

Jharvest:

Jharvest’s CSA Program puts Jewish purchasing power behind local, sustainable agriculture. Jharvest is also a platform for innovative educational and community-building programs that explore the intersection of food and Jewish tradition. Run by Jconnect Seattle and Hillel at the University of Washington, the educational programming sets Jharvest apart from other CSAs by creating a deeper relationship as Jews to the food we eat. For more information check out our website: http://www.jconnectseattle.org/jewsandfood

CSA season: June 3rd-October 14th (20 weeks)

Pick Up Location:

Hillel at the University of Washington
4745 17th Ave Ne Seattle, WA

Share price:

Breaks down to $20-$30 weekly depending on your share size

Family: $618
Standard: $418

TO REGISTER:

Registration forms will be available in late March.

For more information contact: Jharvest@jconnectseattle.org

Get organic, locally-grown vegetables delivered in time for Shabbat – all Summer long!

Credit to Jharvest for the image.

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Clarification: I posted this yesterday, so by tomorrow I mean today, Tuesday March 16, 2010

Thanks to Beth for passing this on. I had no idea tomorrow was an election day, but it is indeed, for the board of supervisors of the King Conservation District. Because the election is handled privately, you won’t receive a ballot in the mail. In fact, there’s only one place you can vote in Seattle: the downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library (voting locations here).

Beth sent the link on because one of the candidates is Mary Embleton, who has directed the great organization Cascade Harvest Coalition for over ten years, and is a committed advocate for local, sustainable food systems. You can read about her background here.

Turnout for this election is usually tiny. Seems like a good reason for a trip to the downtown library tomorrow. Vote for a local foods advocate, check out a book or two, get some (non-local, non-healthy, so delicious) gelato a few blocks away, maybe walk down to Pike Place market for a snack… Not a bad way to take a break.

There’s a Seattle Times article on the election here.

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Simple Celeriac Soup

Celeriac, or celery root, is in the category of winter root vegetables that some people look at with glee and others look at with bewilderment. The latter reaction is pretty understandable; they look kind of like the shrunken heads of ancient, forest-dwelling beings in need of a shave. Or something like that.

But there’s no need to fear this charmingly hideous hypocotyl.

Peel away the outside and you have a solid root of mild, celery flavor great for stews, soups, mashes and other comforting winter dishes.

This soup is extremely simple and comforting. It works well as a meal on its own or can be paired with roast chicken, lamb or salad.

Simple Celeriac Soup

  • 1 large celery root/celeriac
  • 2 fingerling potatoes or 1 medium Yukon Gold type
  • pinch of saffron
  • water
  • broth, about 2 cups
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cream or crème fraîche
  • immersion blender or regular blender

I’m intentionally being ambiguous with some of the proportions above because it depends on how thick/creamy/salty etc you like your soup.

1. Peel celery root/celeriac.  Chop it and the potatoes.   Place in medium, thick pot and add water until it’s covered by about half an inch or an inch.  Boil until fairly soft.

2. Add broth, soft and saffron and cook a few minutes more until the vegetables are quite soft.

3. Use an immersion blender to blend until creamy.

4. Add cream or crème fraîche in the quantity you desire (I used about half a cup).  Salt and pepper to taste, and serve.  Flavor is also great the next day.

Thanks to cosygreeneyes for the flickr CC photo of celeriac.

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Just got word of a mini conference on sustainable food and do-it-yourself food production on Vashon Island this weekend.  Make your own sauerkraut, grow your own mushrooms, cheese-making, canning and all sorts of fun sounding stuff.  I can’t make it; I’m pretty swamped with grad school, but if you go please let me know how it is!

Info is here: http://www.vashonfoodsummit.org/index.htm

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Sometime in the last few years I realized you could use greens other than basil for pesto.  It was a revelation.  Arugula, sorrel, or any stronger-flavored leafy green works beautifully.

Nettles, which we talked about in the last post, are no exception.  The pesto has a rich, earthy flavor and is dark green. The only difference in preparation is that whereas other greens I’d use fresh, I cooked the stingers out of the nettles first out of fear I’d accidentally make the Sadistic Nettle Pesto of Horror.  Just as I first posted this, though, someone commented on the last post that food processing them also destroys the stingers. I’d have to test it to be sure myself, but I liked the rich flavor of the cooked version so much I think I’d keep doing it this way.

As I mentioned last time, you can disable the stingers by cooking the nettles for a minute or so in boiling water.  But you don’t want your pesto to be watery, so drain the final product well and squeeze it out.  I ended up cooking my nettles on a different day than I made pesto, and the added time sitting in the fridge also helped decrease the moisture.

Nettles weren’t the only inspiration for making this. Pesto’s been on my mind since a few weeks ago when I realized the Sidhu Farm stand at the Ballad Farmers’ market was selling unshelled walnuts.  I had two dollars left on me, and got a nice little bagful for that.  A stop at Goodwill yielded a nutcracker and the recent nettle harvesting settled which greens I’d use.  The fate of nettle pesto was sealed.

The pesto is great in any way you’d use basil pesto: on pasta, with salmon, in casseroles, eaten with a spoon… Barring any kitchen disaster or failed recipe, one of the next few posts will give you an idea for using some of your basil pesto.  Meanwhile, here’s the recipe for the pesto itself:

Nettle Pesto

  • 1/2 cup walnuts (shelled)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (you can also use butter but may want to add a little oil to smooth it out, or do half and half)
  • 1.5 cups tightly packed and well-drained cooked nettles
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan or similar cheese

1. In a food processor, blend the walnuts, the garlic, and half the olive oil.

2. Add the nettles, the rest of the olive oil and the salt. Run the food processor until the mixture is smooth.

3. Add the parmesan and pulse a few times to combine, or run until smooth, depending what texture you prefer.

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The nettles are up!  In addition to dandelion greens, I’ve been harvesting nettles and making delicious things out of them.

Nettle, or stinging nettle, is a general term for the genus Urtica, an invasive species with painful little stingers and medicinal properties.  You may have learned what nettles are the hard way, brushing against them and wondering why you suddenly developed painful little welts.  Just the kind of plant you want to eat, right?

Well, the stinging goes away when they’re cooked, and then they become a wonderful, deeply-flavored green that’s absolutely worth harvesting.

To harvest nettles: bring a thick bag, a thick pair of gloves (some people seem to have the magic ability to resist nettle stings; I’m not one!), and a pair of scissors.  Make sure you’re somewhere where pesticides aren’t being sprayed, and be aware that you’re technically not supposed to harvest at city parks.

Harvest nettles when they’re young, about 4-8″ tall and not yet flowering.  Cut the young stalk and collect in your thick bag.

I feel it’s obvious to say, but NEVER to eat nettles without cooking them first.  These things hurt to touch fresh; you don’t want that in your mouth and throat.  Luckily, tossing them into boiling water completely erases the problem.

To cook your nettles, do the following: Boil a pot of water.  Wearing thick gloves, pick out any non-nettle bits among the nettles.  Wash them in a colander.  Dump the nettles straight from the colander into the boiling water and cook for a minute or two until the nettles go limp.  This destroys the stingers.

Here’s a quick recipe for a nice, mild savory souffle of nettles and ricotta made in small ramekins.  You can use other wild greens too, but the nettles are especially nice.

Nettle-Ricotta Souffle

Makes four ramekins

  • 1/2 cup cooked nettles, packed down
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 2/3 cup ricotta
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 4 tablespoons rice flour, coconut flour, or flour of your choice
  • 2 generous pinches of salt
  • grated nutmeg to taste
  • parmesan for the top
  • butter for ramekins

1. Butter four ramekins and set aside. Preheat oven to 375F.

2. Separate eggs, keeping whites in a bowl and placing yolks in a food processor.

3. To the food processor with egg yolks, add nettles, cream, ricotta, rice flour, salt, and a few grates of fresh nutmeg.  Close and process until combined and the nettle is finely chopped.

4. Beat the egg whites until stiff.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the nettle mixture.

5. Divide batter into four buttered ramekins.  On the top, grate a little parmesan cheese and a little more nutmeg.  Bake for about half an hour or until golden brown on top, and serve.  Goes well with soup or salad.

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Along with the early spring, we’re getting lots of greens popping up ahead of schedule. I’m posting a simple recipe for dandelion greens today because I know a lot of people who are aware the greens are edible, but unsure how to use them or when to pick them, or simply never get around to doing it.

Considering how abundant and invasive they are this time of year, and that they’re free, dandelion greens are a great wild edible to have on your what’s-for-dinner radar.  And what better way to start a sunny Sunday than picking some out of the yard and enjoying a relaxed brunch?

Dandelion greens are delicious.  Their flavor is vaguely like a cross between arugula and spinach with a hint of bitterness (they get much more bitter once the flowers come up).  You can use them in salads, sauté them, use them anywhere you would a thin-leafed green.

It’s a great time of year to pick dandelion greens, while they’re still young with small leaves. Pick them when they’ve just come up as rosettes, no flower stalk has formed, and the leaves are thin and delicate.  Pick them from places where soil contamination is less likely or where they’re not being sprayed with pesticides.

My favorite use for them is in a simple scramble.  I add onions I’ve chopped finely and allowed to absorb cream, and I sprinkle goat cheese on top.  In late spring/early summer, fresh peas would also be a great addition.

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Dandelion green, onion and goat cheese scramble.

Proportions per person

  • 2-3 large handfuls of young dandelion greens, still in rosettes with no flower, finely chopped
  • 1/8 onion or 1-2 spring onions
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 Tablespoons cream
  • butter
  • a few dabs of goat cheese
  • salt
  • pepper

1. Pick dandelion greens.  Clean carefully in cold salt water, picking out any grass or non-dandelion bits.  Drain and dry well.

2. Chop onion finely and cook in butter on low heat until clear.  Add a pinch of salt

3. Add 2 tablespoons of the cream to the onion and let the onion absorb the cream, stirring occasionally.  The onions will get plump and delicious.

4. Add dandelion greens finely chopped and stir until wilted. Add another dab of butter.

5. Beat together the eggs and remaining cream, and pour into pan.  On low heat, scrape the eggs inward from the sides of the pan until eggs are  just barely cooked.

6. Move eggs to plate and crumble fresh goat cheese on top.  Grate on some black pepper and serve.

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Sometime in February I usually start thinking about the fruit I put into my freezer last summer, and how I’d better start using it because fresh fruit will start appearing in the markets in just four months.

February is just long enough from last summer, of course, that the fruit tastes extra good.  I was still picking huckleberries in October; December feels a little too early to enjoy them properly.  February, a month of chicken soup and hearty stews and winter greens, feels just right.

Last year, I bought a chest freezer used on craigslist, and it’s been really handy.  I can stock up on meat when it’s inexpensive, put large bags of rice into it to hide them from kitchen moths, and freeze summer fruit at its ripest and cheapest.  When half flats of local raspberries and blueberries went on sale for $5-$7, when farmers were trying to get rid of over-ripe peaches, and when I went huckleberry picking, I saved the fruits for February.

Happily, I discovered I had quite a bit more huckleberries than I’d remembered in my freezer.  I’ve been most fond of baking tarts with hazelnut meal crust (I’ll post the recipe at some point) but I wanted something simple, fast, and fairly healthful (e.g. no sugar, very little honey, very little grains with lots of good eggs and cream).

Clafoutis is a French dessert, a baked cross between custard and cake which is packed very densely with fruit.  Cherries are traditional (we have a bag in the freezer destined for clafoutis tomorrow), but huckleberries are my favorite fruit, and this clafoutis shows them off well.  You can use pretty much any summer berry or stone fruit.  If your freezer isn’t stocked, Madison Market has local berries and peaches in its freezer case, Sidhu Farms (Ballard farmers’ market) sells frozen raspberries and blueberries, and Foraged & Found sells frozen huckleberries (talk to them a week in advance at either farmers’ market).

This recipe uses an almond flour base, but you could do it with all rice flour or try other nut meals as well.  My experience is that clafoutis is fairly forgiving.

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Huckleberry Clafoutis

  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 2 Tablespoons rice flour (optional)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2-3 Tablespoons honey (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • zest of one lemon (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups huckleberries or other small or chopped fruit (frozen or fresh)*

*NB: If using larger fruits like raspberries or even regular-sized blueberries, use closer to two cups of fruit.  Huckleberries are small so a cup of berries means more fruit/less air than a cup of something larger.

1. In blender, mixer or bowl with hand-mixer, combine all ingredients EXCEPT huckleberries until small bubbles appear. (This is one of my favorite things about making clafoutis; how many other baked goods allow you to throw all the batter ingredients in the blender, and don’t need to be mixed delicately?!)

2. Butter a pie dish and place two thirds of your huckleberries (1 cup) into the dish.

3. Pour the batter over those huckleberries.

4. Sprinkle the rest of the berries (1/2 cup) on top

5. Bake at 375F for 45 min – 1 hour, until top is golden-brown and a knife comes out clean.

Serve warm if possible.  Delicious plain, or with whipped cream or coffee or vanilla ice cream.

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I have an article about pastrami and David Sax’s book Save The Deli up at jew-ish.com today.  The beginning is:

You know the old joke about Jewish holidays, how most of them follow the narrative, “They tried to kill us; they failed; let’s eat!” But I’m no longer sure which pillar of Jewish tradition this better describes: The holidays? Or…the deli?

Call the comment tongue-in-cheek –– or pastrami-in-cheek, whatever your taste dictates –– but the rebirth of the Jewish deli is no chopped liver. And, in fact, taste is central to the deli’s revival, according to journalist and author David Sax. He sees Jewish delicatessens not as museums, but places that are preserving both Jewish flavor and culture.

For more, check out the rest of the article here.

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Thanks to Jessica for sending this one in.  Local forager Langdon Cook is speaking tomorrow at Wide World Books and Maps on how to improvise delicious recipes out of wild, foraged foods, particularly those of our region.

Considering the early spring weather we’re having, you’ll be able to try out some of these ideas right away.

He’ll also be talking about his new book, Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager. Cook writes a really interesting blog about his foraging adventures and all things foraging-related.

Here is the Seattle Weekly’s blurb about the event.

Logistics:

Tuesday, February 16th, 7:00 pm, @  Wide World Books and Maps, 4411 Wallingford Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103 (just off 45th Street in Wallingford)

And speaking of foraging, nettles are up early this year.  I saw some while out walking the other day but had no bag or scissors.  Hope to make it out for another woods walk soon and risk stings to make something delicious.

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Really good quiche should be creamy and moist, much less solid than standard scrambled eggs or frittata. The secrets are: cream and air. To make a creamy quiche filling that will fit in the crust of a standard sized pie plate, you only need two eggs, or three if it’s a really deep dish. I was surprised by this, but Julia Child taught me (indirectly, of course) about quiche fillings, and I’ve always subscribed to a fairly orthodox W.W.J.D. philosophy: What Would Julia Do?

Quiche is pretty simple to make. The crust for this recipe is time consuming, but worth it. It’s full of eggs, butter and hazelnut meal, and lower in grains than a standard flour crust, glutenous or otherwise. You can use any sort of pie dough, brioche dough, or gluten-free dough for a quiche crust, or you can leave the crust off entirely if you prefer to limit your grain intake for nutritional reasons. Note, though, that you should increase the amount of filling if you leave off the crust, or consider baking the filling in small ramekins instead.

I filled this quiche with wild mushrooms and leeks because both are available in season, and because they’re a fantastic combination.

Wild Mushroom and Leek Quiche with Hazelnut-Oat Crust (gluten-free)

Hazelnut Oat Crust

(adapted VERY loosely from the brioche recipe in Baking With Julia; the result is not, however, brioche!)

Makes TWO bottom crusts; you can freeze half the dough for next time.

1 rounded teaspoon yeast

1/4 cup milk, warmed to wrist temperature

1 small egg, beaten

3/4 cup oat flour (I found some oats from Oregon.  You can use rice flour or try coconut flour.  Note: some gluten-free folks don’t eat oats because they’re sometimes processed in the same place as gluten grains, but oats themselves are not a gluten grain.)

2 Tablespoons sugar or honey (optional)

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup oat flour (second flour addition)

1/2 cup hazelnut meal (grind up hazelnuts if you can’t get this; Holmquist Hazelnut Orchard in Lynden, WA produces it)

1 teaspoon pectin

2 Tablespoons arrowroot powder (optional)

6 Tablespoons of butter

1. In a bowl, barely mix yeast, warm milk, half a cup of the first flour, and the first small, beaten egg.  Sprinkle the other quarter cup of flour on top, and set somewhere warm for 30-40 minutes.

2. Add the sugar or honey, salt, other eggs, and half a cup of the next batch of flour.  Combine on low in an upright mixer.  Sprinkle in the hazelnut meal and increase the speed, stopping to scrape the sides as needed.  Add in the remainder of the flour with the pectin and optional arrowroot and beat for another three minutes.

3. To add the butter, you want to make it smooth first.  Place it between two pieces of parchment paper or plastic and beat it senseless with a rolling pin for a few seconds, and it should work well.  Add the butter one bit at a time to your mixer, while continuing to beat on medium, until all the butter is incorporated.  If your dough still looks quite wet, add a little more flour and/or hazelnut meal.

4. Transfer to a buttered or oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let it rise somewhere warm for about 1.5 to 2 hours.

5. Flip the dough over with your fingers and poke it to deflate it.  You can also freeze it, or freeze half the batch, at this point.  Cover with a damp cloth and let the dough rise again at room temperature for half an hour, then cover with plastic and transfer to the refrigerator, where you’ll let it sit for 4-6 hours or overnight.

6. When you’re ready to make your quiche, butter and dust with flour a pie dish and set aside. Preheat oven to 375F.

A note about rolling out gluten-free dough: it very rarely works.  Most gf dough doesn’t hold together, and that’s okay.  My favorite hazelnut crust for tarts is a moist dough that would never roll out.  There’s a simple solution for such dough: press it into place in your tart or pie pan using the heel of your hand and your fingers.  But this dough, especially when chilled, rolled out beautifully for me.  Here are instructions:

7. Dust your cutting board with oat or rice or potato flour.  Dust your rolling pin.  Set aside some flour to continue this.

Take half your batch of dough and press into a flattened lump.  Use your rolling pin to roll out from the center of the lump toward the edges.  Every few rolls, pick up your dough, dust it with flour gently (and dust the board and rolling pin) and flip it.

Do this until you have a circle of dough about 1/4 inch thick at most.

Gently fold the circle in half and then half again, just loosely enough to list it.  Engage the help of a friendly spatula if you’re worried about it tearing.

Place the folded dough in the pie pan and unfold it.

Arrange into place, trimming excess corners, and pinching the edges if you want it to look pretty.  Poke a few times with a fork to keep it form inflating.

8. Bake at 375F for 15 minutes or until it’s lightly golden.  Take out and set aside.

The quiche filling

(also inspired by Julia Child)

2 eggs

2/3 cup cream, plus a little extra for the leeks

a generous pinch of oat or rice flour for the leeks

1/8 teaspoon salt, plus a little for leeks

a few grates or a pinch of fresh nutmeg

2 regular leeks or one giant leek

1 1/2 cups wild mushrooms

a handful of finely chopped parsley or winter greens

3 tablespoons of butter plus more for sautéing

1/2 cup grated gruyère or similar cheese (for a different flavor and consistency, sprinkle a little soft goat cheese in)

a few grates of black pepper

1. Trim ends of leeks, remove any really thick green parts (usually 1-2 layers) and wash well.  Slice thin into rounds.  Chop wild mushrooms into small pieces.  Use any variety.  Hedgehogs are in season.  This quiche would be amazing with morels.

2. Heat butter in a pan.  When melted, add leeks and stir.  Keep adding butter as they absorb it, and toss in a pinch of salt.  When the leeks are completely wilted and a few are slightly browned, add your mushrooms and a little more butter.  Stir until mushrooms release liquid or smell strongly of their cooked flavor.  At this point, add a dash of cream and let the leeks and mushrooms absorb it.  Add the parsley or greens, finely chopped, and stir one minute more. Turn off heat and set aside.


3. In a stand up mixer or by hand, whisk together eggs and cream.  You want them to get very light and fluffy.  Whisk in salt and nutmeg.

4. Add leek mixture into eggs and stir.

5. Pour into crust.  Sprinkle some of the cheese about halfway, and reserve most of it to sprinkle on top.  Grate on a little black pepper and dab the butter on in little bits.


5. Bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes.  Top should be golden and a knife should come out clean.

Edited to add:

As a variation, cut down on the number of mushrooms and add some crumbled smoked salmon, finely chopped greens, and goat cheese.  Here’s the result:


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Taking Stock, Making Stock

Bone broth or stock, as I mentioned yesterday, feels like a perfect cure for colds and aches, especially on a wet winter day. There are commercially available stocks, and some are decent, but I make my own for a few reasons.

First, homemade tastes better. Second, it’s full of nutrients from long-simmered bones of animals raised on pasture; you’re not going to get that nutrition from a box of watered-down, industrially raised ingredients and MSG. Third, it’s cheap and easy to make stock, and it freezes well.

There’s nice article on bone broth at Nourished Kitchen that goes into some of the nutrition behind bone broth. I’ll add that bone broth from grass-fed animals is a great source of vitamin K2 MK-4, a vitamin critical to bone and brain health, and in which we’re largely deficient. Considering the energy it takes to raise meat, it makes sense to use everything instead of throwing the valuable bones away.  Bones store a lot of nutrients, and boiling them is the best way to extract and use those nutrients.  Since it’s delicious, why not?

The easiest thing about stock is that it’s something you can make while you’re doing something else. I collect the bones and vegetables for it while cooking other things, by keeping one bag or container in the freezer for bones and another for vegetable scraps. When it’s time to take stock of everything in my freezer and make stock, I simply throw everything into the pot, peek at it a few times for skimming, adjust flavorings once or twice, and otherwise let it simmer. Strain, freeze and you’re done.  Use it as the base for any soups, drink it on its own, or cook rice in it.

For vegetarians: it’s true, I’m promoting the animal bits pretty heavily in this recipe, and they factor into a lot of the nutritional value of broth. But if you just want a delicious base for soups, I’ll give you some easy veggie recipes at the end of this post.


Bone Broth/Meat Stock

Collect bones in your freezer from meat, until you have enough to fill the bottom of a stockpot.  This is an approximation, of course.  Some suggestions: empty (or full) marrow bones, lamb shank bones, chicken bones, chicken backs.  You can also buy chicken backs (University Seafood and Poultry carries them) or buy soup bones from a farm like Skagit River Ranch.  If you buy fresh bones, brown them first briefly.

To your pot, add a few pinches of salt, a pinch of black peppercorns, a pinch of saffron.  I usually wait on adding vegetables until the bones have been cooking for a little while.  Turn the pot on low and let it simmer.

As the broth bubbles, skim any grey scum that floats to the top, for the sake of flavor.

After an hour or so, add vegetables: any in your freezer stock bag would be great.  My favorite component, as I’ll suggest in the vegetarian version, is pea pods.  Save them in the summer from fresh peas and add them to stock all year for wonderful pea flavor.  Other important vegetables: onions (maybe half an onion) garlic, carrots and parsnips.

Cook on low for hours.  Chicken bones for at least 4-6 hours, red meat for at least five.  I like to simmer the broth until I’m ready to go to sleep, and then either strain it in the morning or continue to simmer in the morning after the bones have had a chance to soak.

When it’s done, strain through a mesh strainer, twice if necessary, into jars or ice cube trays and use or freeze.

Fish Variation

Salmon and other fish also make excellent stock.  Places like Fisherman’s Terminal will often give (or sell very cheap) salmon parts like heads or spines. Fish doesn’t need as much time as land meats, just about 1.5-2 hours, so start the vegetables in with the fish.  Onions and pea pods go especially well; I’d leave out heavier root vegetables like parsnips.  Strain carefully because of bones and, if you like, save any salmon scraps for other use, like salmon chowder.

Fish stock is great in soups, especially chowders.  Or you can poach fish in its own stock mixed with a little white wine.

Vegetarian Variations

Vegetarian stock is also delicious.  My favorite flavors to include are lighter ones, such as pea pods or mushrooms (save the tips of your mushrooms in the freezer if you trim them).  Vegetable broth doesn’t need to boil very long, just an hour or so.  For flavor, add plenty of onion, maybe some garlic, salt, pepper, and a pinch of saffron.  A tip: if you eat dairy, add some rinds of parmesan for flavor/umami.  These also keep well in the fridge or freezer.  This stock is especially delicious for blended pea soups, mushroom soups or cream soups because it doesn’t overpower delicate flavors.

One other path to consider: tomatoes make a wonderful vegetarian stock.  I learned this while canning some roasted tomato sauce last summer.  I was disappointed how little sauce came out of so many tomatoes, but I found a nice consequence.  When roasting tomatoes in a casserole pan, the tomatoes release a lovely golden-red liquid.  You can pour off that liquid when you’re making the sauce, and the liquid itself is a gorgeous soup base that freezes well.  Add simple vegetables and some homemade dumplings, and you’ll be very happy.

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Today is grey and rainy, the kind of Northwest winter day I’ll spend making a pot of bone broth while working and fighting off a cold. But this weather hasn’t been the norm lately. With apologies to our snowed-in friends on the East Coast, we’ve been getting a stretch of gorgeous, sunny weather lately, and there’s more forecast ahead after a few days of rain. January was unseasonably warm, and you’ve probably noticed bushes, trees and bulbs in flower now that normally don’t dare open their buds until at least March.

Flowers aren’t the only thing popping up out of season. The warm weather’s affecting local food production as well. Wild edibles are coming up at unseasonable times. The picture above is of hedgehog mushrooms I bought from Foraged and Found at the farmers’ market. Ordinarily, they said, the mushrooms wouldn’t be up in late January and early February. Two weeks ago, I came across a patch of watercress in a stream. I’ve also been noticing grass is growing more rapidly, meaning likely higher yield from dairy farms, as well as dairy and eggs that are higher in nutrients, if the animals are out on pasture.

I talked to Brandon Sheard at Sea Breeze Farm on Vashon Island about how the weather is affecting food production. He confirmed that milk and egg production have both gone up lately, chickens will be started a little earlier, and the cream is gradually getting more yellow, a sign of higher vitamin content. In contrast with the yellow cream, he said, the milk actually starts looking bluer.

Bluer? Really?

Yes, he said. “The milk below gets almost this translucent blue tint to it… The buttermilk is essentially light sky blue; it’s really beautiful.”

Gorgeous colors (and nutrients) we don’t see much in industrialized equivalents.

Speaking of gorgeous colors, here are some local eggs with lovely shells and very orange, high-vitamin yolks:

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Edible Literature Potluck

I’ve wanted to do this for two years. It finally happened.

In January, I hosted my first Edible Literature Potluck. The idea is simple: Bring a dish, ingredient or drink mentioned in any work of literature. It can be high-brow, low-brow, children’s lit, poetry, drama, fiction, etc. Bring the passage in which the food is found. Eat, drink, read passages aloud and have a good time.

There were about thirty people, and enormous amounts of food from clever and beloved sources. I’ll do this event again. It was a reminder that combining creativity, whimsy and good company can produce delicious results.

If I organize a large one in the future and you’d like to come, drop me a message at debs at seattlelocalfood (dot) com.

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Dishes included: (pictures follow)

Turkish delight from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

A surfeit of raspberry tarts from the wonderful picture book Many Moons by James Thurber

Lentils with fried onions from Jhumpa Lahiri’s story “When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine” in the collection The Interpreter of Maladies

Madeleines from Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust

A chickpea salad from the poem “The Chickpea Leaps” by Rumi, found in the book The Soul Is Here For Its Own Joy

Stew from The Lord of the Rings

Mjeddrah, a Persian lentil/rice/onion dish from Crescent by Diana Abu-Jabe

Oranges from Much Ado About Nothing

Pie from “Pie Problem” by Shel Silverstein

Frankfurters, sauerkraut and strawberry jam (not mixed) from The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Appropriately in both food form and letter-form, since the passage is about eating words literally.

Black beans and biscuits from Lonesome Dove

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Readers of this blog probably know that we ran into a technology hiccup in the fall when my hard drive died, taking old files of my blog with it.

Sadly, I was using Apple’s iWeb program to design the site, which seriously limited my options for reviving the old site.  Luckily, I had two URLs pointing to the site, so I can move Seattle Local Food here, to a new page, and keep the old site archived here.

This kind of hiccup is annoying, but in the end it’s just data, things, and intangible frustration.  Not the most important things in life.

Link for old site’s posts: http://www.gofrolic.org/gofrolic/food_blog/food_blog.html

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