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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

raspberries didn't do it

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few sample headlines from the week:

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

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

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

Huffington Post: Hepatitis A Outbreak Linked to Oregon Berry Farm

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

Preliminary results suggest the Oregon berries are innocent.

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

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

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

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

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


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?

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!)


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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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



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.


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.


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.


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.  

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