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(I’ve had some requests to revisit and repost this recipe from my old site [archive].  Here it is!)

A former roommate had a tradition of hosting pizza parties, at which she’d provide dough and friends would bring toppings.  I wanted to participate, but don’t eat gluten and try to limit my grain intake a bit.

Luckily, over at Low Carb Examiner, I spotted a recipe for a cauliflower pizza crust, the brainchild of Jamie VanEaton.  The crust is made only of cauliflower, eggs and mozzarella, with some optional herbs and spices.  No flour, no grains, no gluten.  I bought some cauliflower, mozzarella, and eggs, and I set to work.

It works beautifully.  It’s not bread, but it has the same kind of browned edges and foldable softness a doughy crust has.  Even better, it’s filling without giving me the bloated, tired feeling I get from eating all the white flour in a traditional pizza crust.  The cauliflower flavor is subtle and appealing.  It’s nice to have another cauliflower recipe, since I love cauliflower and frequently cook with it.

You don’t have to be gluten-free or even a cauliflower fanatic to adore this pizza.  I brought some sample slices out to the crowd of party-goers and asked for honest opinions.  Positive scores all around, especially on pizza 2.0 whose crust I allowed to get a little browner.

Everything in this pizza was local, except for a little olive oil and black pepper.

I’m impressed with the ingenuity and creative simplicity of a bunch of recipes I’ve found on Low Carb Examiner.  Jamie has a knack for coming up with low-carb versions of savory carb-heavy comfort foods, but without the kind of substitutes you see in some alternative-ingredient foods, like additives or processed ingredients.  She uses simple substitutes like cauliflower, which appears again in the tasty-sounding lasagna and enchiladas.  Also, check out her jicama hashed brownsnacho chips made of zucchini, egg and cheese, and a zucchini version of her pizza crust.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza: All local and gluten-free

For the crust:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup cooked, mashed cauliflower
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella
  • Optional: herbs or seeds.  The original creator of this recipe used fennel, oregano and basil.  I kept it plain and focused on the toppings.

For the toppings:

  • Mild tomato sauce or purée
  • Grated mozzarella cheese
  • Ricotta cheese, for small dollops on top
  • Assorted vegetables.  I used sautéed onions and chanterelles, fresh button mushrooms, basil, fresh small summer squash, and fresh tomatoes
  • Optional: olive oil, black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  (Mine was at 500 and worked fine; I was sharing the oven with other pizzas.)

2. Cook cauliflower until it’s soft.  Use whatever method you prefer: steam, boil, roast, pressure cook, whatever.  Mash it up with a ricer.  Mix in egg and mozzarella.

3. Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.  If using a pizza stone, cover it in aluminum foil and then put down parchment paper.  Spread out your dough batter about 3/4 inch thick and eight or nine inches wide.  (I doubled the batter but still baked it as two separate batches.)  Let it brown, about 12-15 minutes.

4. Take it out and cover it with your toppings.  Bake again until crust edges brown further and cheese on top melts.  Serve hot.

Pictures:

The crust from the first version, although I preferred the browner second crust.

The first pizza:

The second pizza:

I’ve published a recipe for madeleines before, another gluten-free one using honey, almond meal and lavender.  They were tasty, low-grain, low-sugar, and full of delicious lavender from Sequim.

But the holy grail madeleine I was after kept evading me: the hazelnut madeleine.

I buy hazelnut meal from Holmquist Hazelnuts (U-district farmers market or Pike Place), and it’s my favorite thing to bake with.  It’s rich and almost chocolatey, fatty and tasty.

But every time I tried to make madeleines out of it, they came out too dry.  The hazelnut meal seems to be dryer than almond meal.

Finally, for a local foods French cooking workshop I did at my house, I came up with this recipe.  The proportions work beautifully.  The secret: More eggs.

Serve on their own, dip in cream (or cream mixed with honey/vanilla/rum/whatever you like), or dip in dark chocolate and allow to cool.

~

Hazelnut Madeleines (gluten-free)

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup hazelnut meal
  • 1/3 cup rice flour
  • 1/3 cup sweetener — sugar gives the best crumb, but honey or maple syrup also work.  (You can also reduce the sugar, but this is already pretty low)
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • dash of almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 Tablespoons butter
You need a madeleine pan to make this recipe.  Although you could also use the batter in a ramekin or something like that; it just wouldn’t be a madeleine.
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1. Melt butter (microwave or stove top) and set aside while doing the next steps.
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2. In a standing mixer, beat eggs on high until it starts getting thick and white, at least a minute.  Slowly pour in the sweetener and let it beat at least another two minutes.  Add the vanilla and almond extracts and let it beat another thirty seconds.  Your mixture should be very thick and pale.
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3. In a separate bowl, mix together the hazelnut meal, rice flour, and baking powder.
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4. Take the mixer bowl out of the stand mixer, and gently pour in the flour mixture.  With a rubber spatula, fold in the dry mixture to the egg mixture.  Then, drizzle in the butter, and very gently fold it in with the rubber spatula until it’s completely incorporated.
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5. This is important: refrigerate the mixture for at least thirty minutes.  This changes the consistency of the batter: it starts getting firm and bubbly, the way a good mousse is.  This will help the shape and consistency of your madeleines.
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6. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 F (about 205 C).  Butter your madeleine pan and sprinkle it lightly with rice flour.  Take your batter from the fridge and stir up any separated parts from the bottom.  Gently place spoonfuls of batter into the molds, just barely filing them.
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7. Bake 8-10 minutes until they’re golden; watch them carefully.
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8. Gently turn them out onto a cooling rack and let them cool only slightly before devouring them.

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Western Washington residents know we’ve had some early-fall cold and wet weather this past week.  But in honor of the changing skies — today and tomorrow should be warm and sunny — I’m giving you an insistently summer salad.  It’s all stuff that should be at the peak of ripeness at the markets right now.

The motivation for this salad came from some wonderful fresh ricotta I’d bought from the Broadway Farmers Market (Willapa Hills).  We were looking for a bright, fresh side dish to an oxtail stew, and we were looking to do something with the ricotta other than just caving and eating the entire tub with spoons.  There were also very ripe tomatoes, and two contrasting colors of basil: Italian green and dark purple.

Inspired by picking a plum hanging over the sidewalk that took some acrobatics to reach (it was worth it), we decided to add some of the yellow plums we’d bought from Jones Creek Orchard, adding a sweet and tangy element.  Some sliced up fresh fennel for crunch and flavor, a sliced lemon cucumber, and a little lemon juice, olive oil and pepper later, we had a perfect summer salad.

Enjoy the upcoming warm weather, have a picnic, and eat like it’s still summer while you still can.

~

Insistently Summery Salad

  • Several very ripe tomatoes (at least some dark red, other colors great too)
  • Several very sweet yellow plums
  • 1 small, young head of fennel
  • A few sprigs green Italian basil
  • A few sprigs dark purple basil
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 1 lemon cucumber
  • lemon juice, olive oil, and pepper to taste

1.  Cut tomatoes in wedges.  Discard stems.

2. Cut plums in wedges or slices.  Discard pit.

3. Remove outer layers and inner core (if not very young) of fennel.  Chop remaning white and fresh, crispy parts of green into thin slices.

4. Slice or chop lemon cucumber

5. Tear basil leaves

6.  Combine above ingredients.  Sprinkle with lemon juice, olive oil, and crumbled ricotta.  Stir gently to combine flavors.  Grate fresh black pepper on top.

Serve with any summer meal: Meats, fish, beans… Would go especially well with grilled tuna.

I wrote a few posts ago about some arguments for local eating, including the abundance of varieties we just don’t get from industrial-level agriculture.

Plant diversity means increased chances climate tolerance and disease resistance, (sometimes) extra nutrition, and lots of delicious things to taste. But I forgot to say one thing about those abundant varieties, which is that they sometimes look really cool.

Take summer squash.  You know about zucchini and yellow squash and patty pan.  But have you ever tried tromboncino?  Italian for “little trombone,” these guys, a curved-neck, slender, pale green squash, often reveal a remarkable flower pattern when you cut open the wide end:

Pretty, isn’t it?  They’re also really sweet, but not sugary sweet, and flavorful. And we’ve entered the time of year when summer squash is abundant, so I’m sharing one of my favorite, simple ways to eat them.

Yes, even the stunted plants that were unhappy about a long, cold June are finally producing.  Squash the size of baseball bats, squash the size of tiny slugs, all sizes and sorts of summer squash demand, “Okay, you grew/bought me.  Now what?” Marge Piercy had some suggestions in her famous poem Attack of the Squash People, but I’ve got another:

Breakfast.

We don’t often think of squash for breakfast.  It’s a dinner food, a lunch food, a sautéed on the side food.  But squash for breakfast is marvelous.  It cooks very quickly, and has a sweetness that is brought out when paired with breakfast sausage or, as in this dish, with eggs and a slightly bitter goat cheese.  Add some ripe tomatoes and you have a delicious, colorful breaakfast that takes about five minutes to prepare. Fast enough for a weekday, delicious enough for a weekend, and impressive enough to share.

One of many nice things about this dish: The squash can be used to sop up the extra egg yolk in place of bread.  The flavors are also really well balanced — a bite of tomato makes you want more cheese, a bite of cheese makes you want more squash, the squash goes well with a bite of egg…

If you don’t have tromboncino, this also works well with very young yellow squash.  You do want the small summer squashes for this dish, though.  Save the big ones for ratatouille or stew or something like that.

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Tromboncino Summer Squash with Eggs, Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

1-2 squashes per person, depending on size

2 eggs per person

1-2 very ripe summer tomatoes per person

a few crumbles/slices of goat cheese per person, preferably soft-ripened, but fresh chevre will work too

Butter and olive oil, salt and pepper

1. Slice squash into pieces about 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick

2. Heat a bit of butter and olive oil in a frying pan that has a lid.  Add squash.  Sauté until soft.  Add a little more butter.

3. Crack eggs over squash.  Let cook about 30 seconds to 1 min.

4. Add a spoonful or two of water, and then cover with the lid until the egg whites are cooked but the yolks are still soft.  Transfer immediately to a plate.

5. Slice tomato on top in wedges.  Crumble on cheese.  Add pepper.  You can also drizzle on a little olive oil.

Seattle Local Food has been nominated Best Food Blog at the King 5 Best of Western Washington contest!

First, thank you to whoever nominated the site.  I really appreciate it.  If you’d like to vote for us, go ahead!  You can vote using this button:

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(Second, as a fan of lolcat nerdiness, I always think “nominate” should be a verb for “to eat” as nom nom nom is the noise lolcats make when they eat.  So, perhaps nomination is a good thing to do for a food blog?)

I don’t know much about the contest — I think King 5 TV does a best-of series every year.  And apparently related categories to “Best Food Blog” included things like Dealerships, Jazz Clubs, and Ugliest Dog.  (Uh, does this mean I need to get a better profile picture?)

I think the site is a pretty good food blog, but I’m also not particularly competitive, to be honest.  Vote however you like.  I’ll give you what I think are honest pros and cons:

What Seattle Local Food has going for it:

  • Great recipes that are also really good for you
  • Pictures of delicious food
  • Food politics, like what’s going on with raw milk, or other things I hear about
  • Nutrition information and science
  • Interconnections: While other sites give you recipes OR nutrition research OR sustainability/food politics information, this site looks at the intersection, because they’re inseparable, and need to be realized as such.

The site’s challenges:

  • I don’t always blog regularly.  Life happens, school happens, family emergencies happen, anxiety about writing happens.  But I love it when I do it
  • I’m not a professional chef.  But I love to cook, I study health, I could spend hours at farmers’ markets, and I make delicious food that has led to marriage proposals (I haven’t accepted).  You get the recipes and the notes.
  • There are more comprehensive science-focused nutrition sites out there and I applaud them.  There are cooking sites with more recipes, more elaborate recipes, and even more drool-worthy photography.  I think that’s great.  And there are sites with information on sustainability, which is also great.  If you’d like to support one of those areas, without the interconnection, there are many great ones to choose from.

Anyway, there you have it.  Vote as you like, and thanks for reading and supporting!

Debs

I first learned to make this dish from an ex-boyfriend, who learned it from his grandmother in Provence.

But since then, I’ve cooked it for several friends from Sephardic Jewish backgrounds.  “Oh, nice fasolia!” they said.  It turns out that fasolia, or fasoulia (or I’m sure countless other spellings/pronunciations) is a traditional Sephardic dish as well, with roots in Syrian and Lebanese communities.  A little browsing online reveals that the dish is claimed in other countries as well: Italy, Turkey, Greece, and all over the Middle East.  There are versions with meat as well.

There’s a reason everyone wants to claim it for their own.

This dish is incredible.  It’s simple and relies on the flavor of very good ingredients.  The tomatoes stew to a perfect sweetness, embracing the garlic, swimming in olive oil, and then wrapping around flat, thin string beans (romano are best) until the beans yield and soften and soak in the tomato flavor.  I neither confirm nor deny the rumor that if nobody else is home, I might lick out the pan.

But usually someone else is home, because this is a dish that’s meant to be shared with people, too delicious to keep for oneself.  It’s probably my favorite thing to cook in summer.  Actually, you shouldn’t believe me when I say that; I’ll probably say (and believe!) that about whatever delicious thing I’ve cooked most recently, but of savory dishes I like to make in the warm months, this one appears on the table probably more than any other.  It’s easy and satisfying, and it relies on ingredients that are best at their peak of ripeness.

Although maybe this year I’ll freeze some tomatoes (you can freeze them whole and raw if you’re going to cook with them) and some romano beans and make it one day in winter for a treat.

The dish is very easy to make.  Give it the time it needs; the tomatoes really should taste sweet before you add the beans, and the beans really should get soft before you serve it. And don’t skimp on the olive oil.  Serve it with just about anything: salmon, meat, poached eggs, salad, crusty bread, barbecued chicken…

Invite someone over to impress.  And if they look at the dish and say, “Oh, nice __________” with a name you’ve never heard of from their culture, just nod sagely as if you knew, as if you wouldn’t claim the dish for any culture but theirs, and offer them seconds.

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Fasolia: Stewed romano beans with tomatoes and garlic

  • Flat string beans like romano, about one pound.  It does work with regular ones, especially if they’re thin like haricots verts, but avoid thick string beans or thicker flat beans like scarlet runners — they take longer to cook and don’t work as well.
  • Garlic – about one head, peeled and chopped finely
  • Extremely ripe, deep red tomatoes – about two pounds
  • Olive oil – lots
  • Salt – to taste

1. Chop tomatoes coarsely.  Quarters or eights depending on the size.  Leave skins on.

2.  Put tomatoes into a wide-bottomed pot or deep pan that has a cover.  I like to use a stainless steel one for this.  Turn on the heat and let them steam a minut or so.

3. Add a few generous dollops of olive oil, stir, and cover.  Set heat to medium.

4. While the tomatoes are cooking, peel your garlic and chop very finely.  (Note: if you’re very slow at peeling and chopping garlic, do this in advance.)

5. Add garlic to tomatoes and olive oil.  Stir.  Sprinkle in salt until you can smell the tomatoes or it tastes right.  Stir, add a bit more olive oil, and cover.

6. Prep the romano beans — cut off the pointy ends, and cut any super-long beans in half.

7. Let the tomatoes cook until they taste sweet and have liquid bubbling all around them.  It’s important to wait for the sweet taste, or the dish doesn’t taste as good.

8. Add the beans to the tomatoes, and cover them with liquid and tomato bits.  Replace the cover.

9.  Cook until the beans are soft, stirring occasionally.  Seriously, do this even if you’re a al dente vegetable person usually, as I am.  The softened beans absorb the tomato flavor and meld into the dish.  As you stir, your tomatoes should be losing some of their water and occasionally sticking to the bottom.  Don’t let them burn, but this sticking is actually a good thing — scrape it with your wooden spatula, and it actually adds to the sweetness of the dish, mixing with olive oil beautifully.

10. When the beans are soft, turn off the heat, add more salt if needed (don’t over salt) and add more olive oil generously, at least a few dollops/tablespoons or more.  Stir in the olive oil and serve.

A New York Times article disparaging local eating generated a fair amount of buzz when it was published last week, mostly writing it off. I’m not surprised, since it contains a number of flaws in logic.

I encountered the article when an acquaintance rather triumphantly brought it to a local-foods themed Shabbat dinner potluck. No worries; as a Jew I see real value in debate as a means for sorting out nuance and complexity in order to find the best answers possible.

In this case, I’m not sure the debate is useful, because the arguments presented seem both weak and strangely angry. The author refers to local eating as “gospel” and “arbitrary” and “do-gooder dogma,” words meant to be both extreme and divisive.

This isn’t useful because it feeds a false premise, the idea that local eating is a trend, a fashion statement, something to believe in only to an extreme, a position which usually leads to rejection. Those with such a viewpoint will seek not so much a sound argument as, what this article felt like, a platform for someone looking for a reason to dislike local eating and not really caring if it is soundly argued or not.

Granted, there are people looking for a reason to like local eating and who don’t care if the reasons for doing so are soundly argued. Maybe they’ll keep doing it, maybe they won’t, but I imagine in the meantime they’ll have some good meals.

It’s important to be wary of anything being treated as a trend, whether you agree with it or not. That’s simply not, well, sustainable. We have a cultural addiction to the cycle of treating ideas as dogma to adhere to and then dogma to discredit. It’s how we approach everything from our habits to our relationships to our politics. It’s very consumerist and it doesn’t encourage nuanced thought.

In reality, people eat local food (partly, primarily, entirely, etc) for a variety of very sensible reasons. And if we sound fervent sometimes,well, so might anyone who has just eaten a proper ripe tomato or raspberry.

But this article’s author assumes we all think the same way, and that we don’t care how something is produced as long as it’s produced nearby. Here’s an example of one such meaningless generalization:

The result has been all kinds of absurdities. For instance, it is sinful in New York City to buy a tomato grown in a California field because of the energy spent to truck it across the country; it is virtuous to buy one grown in a lavishly heated greenhouse in, say, the Hudson Valley.

Really? Sinful? For someone using a headline about math lessons (although in his defense New York Times writers don’t generally create their own headlines), this is an awfully illogical statement, drawing a generalization without any scientific basis (something he also accuses local eaters of doing). “Sinful” and “virtuous” are divise words, sure, but they’re also puzzlingly over-applied. Also, the local-foods fans I know in New York City are happy to wait until summer to buy (or grow, like my friend Karyn in Astoria) their tomatoes, no greenhouse necessary.

The author’s other main premise is that the current food system is very efficient and that eating locally-grown produce will do little to nothing to reduce energy use. But he uses a lot of bait-and-switch arguments to defend this premise, starting when it suits him with one idea some people hold about local eating, pursuing it part way, and then switching to a different one when convenient.

He writes:

The statistics brandished by local-food advocates to support such doctrinaire assertions are always selective, usually misleading and often bogus.

A letter [first one on the page] published in response suggests the author’s numbers are actually misleading and bogus. The letter’s author points out: A recent Department of Agriculture study reported that 28 percent of food energy use comes from households while much of the rest — 57.6 percent — comes from the processing, packaging, transportation, wholesale and retail, and food service energy use that locavores are seeking to avoid.

The original statistics the article’s author discusses (brandishes?) are about calories of energy used in transporting food, energy cost of fertilizer, and so forth. But what he’s avoiding mentioning is that shipping is only one way in which absurdly-transported food (e.g. lettuce from 3,000 miles away when it’s grown 30 miles away and picked fresher) uses more energy. It’s true, one head of lettuce doesn’t use much more energy when it’s from California, but what about thousands of heads of lettuce? And fertilizer, while it may be an energy issue, is not primarily that — non-organic fertilizers can be detrimental to soil and water, and limit long-term sustainability of farm land.

Picking one angle (exact amounts of fuel used to transport food) and massaging numbers is misleading.

Local eating is and should be nuanced. Certainly, we can’t say for sure that the entire food system as it’s currently structured should be dismantled. But the movement toward supporting small, local farms using sustainable (organic, low energy, crop-varied) means of production is simply a very good idea. This is true whether you buy more produce from the place you live when it’s in season, or eat entirely locally-produced food, or anything in between.

Why? The reasons are as varied as summer produce. Here are just a few:

~ Produce shipped across the country is often (but not always) grown on very large-scale farms, sometimes owned by larger corporations. It’s like anything in our economy; while some families own and responsibly operate large farms that sell to distributors, there are many more instances of mom-and-pop operations bought up by larger companies. Growers lose economic and decision-making control over their farms, or lose their farms entirely.

~ Centralization isn’t a great idea when it comes to what we eat. This becomes apparent every time an outbreak of food-borne illness spreads rampantly throughout the country, from one distributor or large-scale grower. It’s also not a good idea to yield control of our food supply to a small number of companies.

~ Produce shipped across the country was probably not picked this morning, like the food I buy at my farmers’ market.

~ The produce at the farmers’ market usually tastes better, is riper.

~ Small-scale farmers are generally very good at what they do, and passionate about growing the best food they can, interesting varieties, and food that tastes good.

~ Local food at a farmers’ market is not subject to certain industrial regulations that don’t make sense, like requiring apples to be perfectly round. Such standards result in a great deal of food waste in this country (although some large producers encourage gleaning at their farms, or use other methods to attempt not to waste this food). Small producers can choose breeds for delicious flavor rather than shelf-life, transportability, color and so forth.

~ Some locally-produced, small-scale food is more nutritious. Produce grown in rich, healthy soil. Meat, dairy and eggs from animals on pasture on a small farm, not cooped up in cages or feedlots. It would be funny if it weren’t maddening to hear this argument disparaged by those who assume the argument is that any food produced locally is more nutritious.

~ We can save cross-country shipping of produce for areas where it’s really necessary or beneficial. I’m actually all for shipping citrus fruits in winter; they give us vitamin C and they’re a lovely break from winter foods. They’re also not going to supplant local fruit, although honestly I’m pretty content eating dried and frozen summer fruit through most of the winter. Peach pie in February does use freezer energy, but it also makes me really happy.

~ I like to think long-term. If we want farmland to be preserved, and varieties of produce to be preserved, we should support the people running those farms and growing that produce now. This may be especially urgent as climate changes; we may need to rely on crops that do well in a particular area or are tolerant of heat/cold/drought/etc. While I’m sure Monsanto would be happy to develop and patent some for us, I’d rather we not lose any more varieties that already exist.

Deceptively, the author suggests the amount of farmland in America is virtually unchanged. But the number of farms has been reduced drastically, and much existing farmland is now used to grow grains for unhealthy products like high fructose corn syrup, corn oil, white flour, etc.

I guess I’m not sure why the author wrote an article that seems bitter to the point of something personal going on. But if it gives local food appreciators a chance to reiterate that our reasons for eating what we do are based on science, math, economics, community benefit, and taste buds, we’ll take it.

Feel free to try calling it a trend, but barring any weather disasters, I don’t foresee a summer where I’ll say, “Oh, ripe summer tomatoes? Those are so last year.”

There are some recipes that should remain unaltered.

These are generally the recipes that are a combination of  memory-entwined, delicious, and very simple, so that a single change would transform the nature of the dish significantly.

This view is a departure from what I wrote in my last post, about finding the freedom to experiment with som tam beyond the original formula I’d learned in a Chiang Mai market.  But som tam’s essence is from the unalterable parts, the lime and garlic and fish sauce and touch of sugar, and the fruits and vegetables are a vehicle for those flavors, a canvas with their own subtle characters.

The dish for today’s post has only five ingredients, and together they taste just so.

This recipe is from my friend Tom, who came to visit Seattle for a few weeks.  Similarly passionate about food, we cooked a number of outstanding meals together, collaborating and teaching each other a few of our favorite things to cook.  He was in love with these fava beans, insistent about each step of the cooking process being just so to produce a simple, harmonized, memory-enriched taste.  It worked.  And they were marvelous.

The dish comes originally from the Sephardic Jewish community of Aleppo, Syria.

The recipe is very simple.  The ingredients: favas, olive oil, garlic, coriander and salt.  And a bit of water for the cooking.  There is no such thing as too much garlic in this recipe (Tom said he couldn’t conceive of such a thing, and I suggested a pile large enough to crush you might be pushing it, unless carefully maintained).  The coriander, a dried spice, is best if fresh-ground and good quality, like the stuff available at World Spice.

It has taken me until this year to become comfortable with fava beans.  For all their charm, they come with a bit of baggage.  First, their most notable entrance into American pop culture remains when Anthony Hopkins’s cannibalistic character in The Silence of the Lambs mentions eating a human being with fava beans and a nice chianti.  Then, there’s that rumor about the peel.  Don’t they come with some very difficult peel?  Doesn’t it take power tools to remove it?  Are they even worth it?

No on the power tools and difficulty, but about whether it’s worth doing: Yes, yes, yes, and oh ever definitely yes.  They’re buttery, subtle-yet-complex in flavor, just the right kind of soft and chewy, tender.  They’re very agreeable; this dish of favas works just as well next to some lamb or mutton as it does paired with a light summer salad and soup.  They’re favas you’ll fall a little in love with, and want to make repeatedly.

First, a note about peeling.  Tom points out that the peeling must happen –– for reasons not just social but about the taste and integrity of the beans! –– while sitting around having Grandma gossip or neighbor gossip or some kind of slightly-scandalous discussion, chit-chat, banter, or revelation of family secrets.  Preferably on a porch. Rocking chairs wouldn’t hurt either, if you want to be on the safe side.

The peeling is actually kind of fun.  Yes, there are recipes that involve blanching the beans to make the peeling easier, but let’s forget that for the moment.  First, let’s entice you by show how pretty the beans look while they’re being peeled:

Interested?  Good.  Now, let’s make you wait a bit more to hear about the peeling and talk about the selection of favas.

The most exciting time to cook favas is early in the summer, or when the crop is fairly young.  I’ve been lucky enough to find some young-ish favas even through August here (Nash’s Organic has had really nice ones).  You can use any favas for this dish, but in a moment we’ll learn why young ones are the best.  These pods are thinner, brighter green, firmer, and have fewer brown markings.  There is less of a string to pull, or no string if it’s very young.

When you open the young-ish pod, it looks like this inside:

Very soft, white, almost furry.  Tender and… delicious.  Yes, that’s right, you can eat bits of the pod when it’s this young, and you should rip off the nicest pieces and throw them in the bowl.  As the season goes on, you are less likely to be able to do this.

Now, what about that extra layer to the bean?  Here’s a secret: the youngest ones don’t need the extra layer removed.  Sacrilege!  But true.  For my taste, anyway.  Older, grown-up beans have a thin, pale-green or white-ish waxy layer that can be removed very carefully with the thumb nail to reveal a brightly colored bean inside.  But there are some beans so young that when removed from the pod, they barely have this layer at all, and are pretty bright green on the outside already.  Leave them.

Okay.  We’ve talked about grandma gossip, we’ve talked about selecting favas, we’ve talked about peeling… You’re ready to cook.

Fava Beans with Coriander and Garlic

  • Fava beans — about 1.5 pounds for a side dish, but you can make this dish on an enormous scale and it works well.
  • Garlic — there is no limit.  I used two heads for my 1.5 pounds of favas, but then again I was running out of time.
  • Tom’s grandmother uses seven cloves.

  • Coriander, dry, fresh-ground — To taste.
  • Olive oil
  • Salt (added at the end only!)
  • A bit of water

1.  Peel favas.  See notes above about pod age, whether the bean needs the waxy layer removed, and the necessity of grandma gossip.  Save bits of any very soft, tender, green pods, and tear them into your bowl.

2. Chop garlic.  Roughly, finely, however.  Just have plenty of garlic.

3. In a large pan (like a cast iron skillet) heat olive oil.  Add favas, peel bits and garlic.  Stir for a minute to begin cooking.

4. Add the coriander, so that it merges with the oil and its flavor is brought out. Be generous; it should make the dish brownish. But since you are NOT actually frying these favas…

5. Add a bit of water.  Note that you are also not boiling the favas.  You want just enough water to pool around the beans and let the top halves poke up through the liquid.  I started with a cup of water, and also added a little extra olive oil for flavor.

6.  Let it cook, stirring and resisting any temptation to add salt yet.  If the water runs out, add more.

7. When the favas are cooked, they are soft, wrinkly, a little grey-ish, and not at all mealy.  The water is nearly all cooked off.  At this point, add salt to taste.

Serve on their own, with summer foods, or with grilled/broiled meats like mutton or lamb… which is, uh, now that I think of it, silent.  Hold the chianti.

My love for Thai food stems mostly from a college semester I spent living in Chiang Mai, a small, beautiful city in the north of Thailand with spectacular food.

It took a while for me to love the food rather than just like it.  Tiny, incredibly hot chilis looked deceptively like mild string beans as they floated in bowls of soup, until I picked them up and munched on them.  My host sister, Kei, liked introducing me to foods like congealed blood in curry (“It’s like jelly!” she said, helpfully.) Fish sauce was weird.

But the complex flavors drew me in, and the spiciness became an asset, and then a necessity.  Spicy Northern Thai foods gradually burned off my taste buds, and rewarded me with extra flavor, until I just thought it was normal for my eyes and nose to run at every meal, and I couldn’t taste food that wasn’t spicy.  My friend Phueng promised me, as she sprinkled extra fish sauce with hot chilis onto our fried rice, “You’ll miss fish sauce a lot when you go back to America.  It’s where all the delicious flavor comes from.”  She was right; fish sauce is the main source of umami in Thai foods.

There were so many favorite dishes, using fish sauce to enhance sweet, sour, spicy, subtle and powerful flavors.   The curried, fishy khanom jean, served over soft, fermented rice noodles.  Kao soi, an addictive, spicy red curry noodle soup with pickled vegetables and chicken.  Gai yang, the tangy barbecued chicken sold at the market near where I lived.

Gai yang is meant to be eaten with sticky rice and pinches of som tam, a tangy salad of shredded green papaya pounded in a large mortar and pestle with lime juice, fish sauce, tomatoes, garlic, green beans, chilis and sugar (hold the peanuts, eggplant and shrimp, please).  I bought som tam daily from a woman who set up a little folding table at the edge of the market, and pounded som tam in her mortar and pestle, assembled to order.  I ate it picnic-style on the floor with friends P’Nu Dang and P’O, barely noticing the spice as my eyes ran with happy tears.

Like most converts, though, I made the mistake of thinking that formulas, or recipes, were unalterable doctrine.  Som tam was made the way the woman in the market made it, and so I could never make som tam in America; where was I going to find green papaya?  Or a large-enough mortar and pestle?  Besides, I like to eat local produce as much as possible; nobody in Washington State grows green papayas.

Then, here in Seattle, I went to my Thai friend Sani’s apartment for lunch, where she and her friends served me carrot som tam with fresh tomatoes.  Carrot som tam!  The flavors tasted just right, even though with its bright orange color it looked nothing like the pale green mixture that the woman at my Chiang Mai market made.  “Sure,” Sani and her friends assured me.  “You can make som tam out of anything.  Apples, vegetables.  Fruit som tam, som tam polamai, is really popular.”

I was inspired.  I went home and pulled CSA carrots and yellow summer squash out of my refrigerator.  An apple that had to be used up.  Some romano beans.  Some tomatoes.  A lemon cucumber.  And set to work.

Som tam has two kinds of vegetables or fruits: the ones you shred for the base, and the ones you chop and pound when you add them in.

The shredding is best done with a food processor top-blade or mandoline, something that’s going to keep the shredded strips fairly intact and stiff, so they can retain some shape when they’re pounded.  Just a word to the wise if you’re using a food processor: Pay attention to how much you’re shredding.  I blithely threw in four enormous carrots, an apple, and two squashes and it made a lot more som tam than I was expecting.  But it was so good, there was very little left in the bowl.

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Local Vegetable Som Tam (Thai shredded salad with lime)

Shredding vegetables/fruits — use any mixture of:

  • 2-3 carrots (any color; mixed is pretty.  Carrots make a great base for som tam, with other things added in)
  • 1 apple and/or very firm pear
  • 2 summer squash (yellow squash, zucchini, etc)

You may substitute in vegetables like:

  • 1-2 young turnips
  • 1-2 radishes (mixed with other things; a bit too strong on their own as a base)
  • 1 large or 2 medium golden or chioggia beets, ideally mixed with apples or carrots

Added vegetables (not shredded)

  • 2-3 tomatoes, cut in wedges
  • 1 cup string beans or romano beans cut in 1-2″ pieces
  • 1 lemon cucumber, in slices or wedges
  • Other additions — you can add any fresh summer vegetables or some fruits like peas, snap-peas, eggplant, cucumbers, plums (the tangy flavor would be great)…

Added flavors

  • 2 T or more fish sauce / nam pla (to taste)
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, pressed and then chopped fine
  • 1-2 T sugar or honey (to taste).  Palm sugar, which isn’t very sweet, is traditional.
  • 1-7 Thai chili peppers (to taste)

(Optional: traditional som tam also has dried shrimps and peanuts, but due to allergies and dietary restrictions, I left both out.)

Tools

  • Something for shredding — I recommend a food processor with top shredding blade or a mandoline
  • A wide bottom bowl and a heavy glass or mug, OR a very large mortar and pestle.

Directions

1. Shred all your shredding vegetables/fruits.  Set aside.

2. Chop your chilis and garlic.  (A tip for avoiding getting the oil on your fingers: Hold the stem in your fingers and use a good pair of scissors to cut the thin slices into your bowl.)

3. In the bottom of a wide bowl or a very large mortar, use a pestle or heavy mug/glass to pound your sauce of fish sauce, garlic, sugar, lime, chilis.

4. Chop tomatoes, green beans, and any additional vegetables.

5. Mix your shredded vegetable and additional vegetables into the sauce.

6. Pound the entire salad.  You’re bruising and breaking down some of the structure of both the shredded and the chopped vegetables, which allows the flavors of the sauce to permeate.  This is fun and cathartic, and makes the salad taste better.

7. Taste and adjust the flavorings as desired.  You want the lime to make it very tangy, the spice to wake you up, the garlic to make your mouth water.

Serve plain, with jasmine rice, or with barbecued chicken (gai yang) and Thai sticky rice.  A wedge of sweet cabbage also compliments the spiciness nicely.

Thanks to the Seattle City Council, it’s now legal to have up to eight chickens in Seattle!  No roosters, which is probably a good compromise, considering their tendency to be rather vocal.

The new bill, described here, also expands urban farming to be allowed in all zones, with some limits in industrial areas, and makes more room for farmers’ markets, rooftop gardening, and selling home-grown food.

In a lot of ways, the bill is catching up to what residents are already doing.  At last month’s backyard chicken coop/goat pen tour, I spoke with a number of residents who weren’t sure anymore what the legal limit of chickens on a property was, but thought they’d heard it had gone up.  I’ve seen many houses with more than three chickens (the previous limit).

Still, score another point for backyard farmers and gardeners.  And go count your chickens, hatched or otherwise.  My housemates/community and I plan to celebrate by building a coop.

Photo of chickens via Creative Commons.

I’ve always been fond of Thai basil chicken.  The mixture of ground chicken, garlic, fish sauce, basil, chilis, vegetables and lime is outstanding. I’ve also always adored tod mun, little fried cakes (usually fish) served with dipping sauce in Thai restaurants. And finally, I’m developing a bit of a thing for breakfast sausage patties, but I don’t eat pork, so I usually make my own.

It was time for these three tastes to converge.

I thawed a pound of ground chicken from Stokesberry Sustainable Farms.  They sell at a lot of our local markets and have inspired me with their own really tasty chicken breakfast sausage patties to make my own.  The flavors of Thai basil chicken come out in this recipe.  Serve them for breakfast with fried eggs, or as an appetizer or dinner with dipping sauce or rice or vegetables or cauliflower.

Thai Basil Chicken Breakfast Sausage Patties (Tod Mun Kraprao Kai)

(yields 12-16 small patties)

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 egg
  • 3-4 tablespoons coconut flour or rice flour (optional)
  • 2-3 thai chili peppers (Tip: if you can only find fresh Thai chilis in a larger quantity than you’ll use in the time they’d stay fresh, freeze the rest and take them out as you need them.  Works great with lime leaves too.  Speaking of which…)
  • 2-3 Thai lime leaves/kaffir lime leaves
  • a pinch of white pepper
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small onion to 1/4 large onion
  • 2 carrots
  • large handful or three of basil leaves
  • zest of one lime
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • optional: a little Thai panang or green curry paste for extra flavor

1. Chop onion, garlic and carrots very small.

2. In a large bowl, mix chicken, egg, flour, white pepper, and vegetables.  Add a little Thai panang or green curry paste if you’re using it.

3. Cut up lime leaves and peppers directly into the mixture.  I always cut both of these with a pair of scissors because it makes it ridiculously easy and you don’t get chili oils on your fingers.  Waiting until you’re ready to let the pieces fall right into whatever your cooking also helps you avoid touching the cut bits.

4. Zest in the lime, and squeeze in half its juice.  Stir again.

5. Wrap up the bowl and stick it in the fridge for 12-24 hours to marinate (you can skip this is you really want to eat this NOW).

6. Notice I haven’t mentioned the basil yet?  Chop the basil finely and stir it in, so it’s nice and fresh.

7. Make it into small patties and freeze them on a baking sheet.  Once frozen, store them all in a freezer bag.

8. When ready to cook, heat up some coconut oil, schmaltz or high oleic sunflower oil.  Fry on each side directly from the freezer until brown.

I’m generally a fan of lightly cooked vegetables instead of soft ones, particularly in spring, but there are exceptions.  This dish is one of those exceptions.  The flavors meld together beautifully, especially as they absorb butter and cream.

The most common gratin is a potato one: layers of potatoes absorbing cream and onion and flavor, mixing with melted cheese, and getting nicely golden on top.  There’s a lot of appeal in this, but the potato isn’t doing much to add flavor.  Improvising gratins from other vegetables makes for a more flavorful and nutritious dish.

For this gratin, I used some of my favorite summer vegetables: asparagus, peas, small spring onions, and a few morel mushrooms.  With a lot of butter, some cream, some sheep’s milk cheese or gruyere (or whatever you have on hand) and parmesan on top, it’s extraordinary.  Serve it plain, with a poached egg, with a salad or chilled soup, or as a side to grilled or roasted meat.

Spring Vegetable Gratin with Poached Egg

Proportions are per person — make this in individual pans or as a larger gratin

  • butter for cooking (plenty!)
  • 1/4-1/3 lb fresh asparagus
  • 1/4 cup fresh peas (frozen are ok)
  • 4-5 morels
  • 2 small spring onions or 1 medium/small one
  • about 1/4 cup cream
  • a few ounces of cheese, like sheep’s milk or gruyere
  • parmesan, salt
  • small amount of chopped Italian parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F

1. Chop all vegetables finely, and thinly slice cheese.

2. In a small oven-safe pan, sauté onions in butter, with a bit of salt, until soft and clear.  Add morels, optional parsley, and more butter until morels cook through.

3. Add asparagus and stir.  Wait one minute and add peas.  Stir and turn off the heat.

4. Pour in just enough cream to almost, but not quite, cover.  The top layer of vegetables should be sticking out.  Gently fold in sliced or crumbled cheese.  Grate parmesan on top.

5. Cook 30 minutes at 400F

6. When almost done (top is golden/brown when done), poach an egg to serve on top.  Bring water to simmer in a small pot.  Add a dash of vinegar.  Add in cracked egg (some people pre-crack it in a bowl) and do not touch while it cooks.  After a minute or so, gently scoop it out with a slotted spatula or spoon.  Place on top of the gratin and serve.

So, I’m slowly coming up for air after a month of travel and finishing up my MFA.  I have a few things left to do this week, and then the MFA is complete and I can focus on the MPH for the next year.  And, of course, get back to blogging!

Today I displayed a poster at the UW’s Maternal & Child Health/School of Public Health research festival, based on a few projects I did last year.  You can download a higher resolution pdf of my poster here: CapstoneDGcopy. (NOTE: due to some error in the file, some people get something scrambled/random boxes instead of the correct image.  Working on fixing this.)

The poster is based on my critique of an intervention trial called Pathways published in 2003 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (Full text)  In this intervention, over 1,000 predominantly American Indian school kids in schools spent grades 3-5 receiving what the researchers thought would reduce or prevent obesity: reduction of saturated fat in the diet, exercise in school, and education of kids and their families about these principles.  At the end of the intervention, saturated fat had indeed been reduced in the intervention schools, as compared to the control schools.  But not one of the measures of obesity was any different from the control schools.

What did the researchers do?  Well, a great deal of money probably went into the study; a whole supplement issue of AJCN was devoted to the preparation for it in 1999.  Whether to save face or their attitude was genuine, they concluded the study was a partial success, in that they had reduced dietary fat, even if it hadn’t actually affected obesity.

It makes sense that their intervention didn’t reduce obesity; saturated fat doesn’t cause obesity.  Looking at a population level from USDA data (which is, admittedly, imperfect, but makes sense in this case), saturated fat isn’t what’s increased significantly in our diets during the obesity epidemic.  Corn sweeteners and vegetable oils have, as have grains to some extent.  Further, traditional American indigenous diets have focused on animal foods high in fats and fat-soluble vitamins.

Meanwhile, fat-soluble vitamin deficiency continues to be a concern; we move animals off pasture and lose naturally-occurring forms of vitamins A, D, K2 and omega-3 fatty acids that are found in the fats of animals eating what they’re meant to eat (not grain).  We reduce saturated fat, switch kids’ lunch beverages to skim milk and juice instead of whole milk, and we contribute to the deficiency problem.  Additionally, vitamin deficiencies have a bi-directional relationship with obesity.

So what do we do instead?  Interventions that make sense: reduce sugars, carbohydrates and vegetable oil in diet.  Focus on vitamin deficiency as related to obesity prevention and intervention.  Focus on traditional diets and family involvement that isn’t condescending: learn from people what foods have been traditionally protective in their communities, instead of telling them information about how to eat that is not having an effect.  Increase exercise, but increase it outdoors with vitamin D exposure from sunlight (in non-winter months especially) and where kids can move about in and interact with a natural environment.

But to continue repeating the same mistakes and covering our footsteps when they don’t work?  It’s not only ineffective; it’s harmful.  Kids, and adults, deserve better.

(Since I’ve had a request, if you’d like to read it, my original critique of the Pathways intervention is here: health promotion critique DG )

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!


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.

Looks like raw milk at Madison Market isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  And, the word is, Dungeness Valley Creamery is going to be the third dairy whose milk will be sold there.  Yay, Madison Market!

Have you walked into PCC lately and noticed the absence of raw milk? I have, and was disappointed to learn PCC has followed the steps of Whole Foods and halted raw milk sales. Their media blurb about the change is here.

Nobody in Washington State has, to my knowledge, recently gotten sick from raw milk. But something’s going on. First, raw milk producers were suddenly getting a lot more attention from the health department, with subsequent media insinuations about raw milk and E. coli. This culminated in a Seattle Times article written in pretty menacing language, and trying to make raw milk drinkers sound like crazy people. Pressure is coming from somewhere, and it’s unclear where.

To my knowledge, Madison Market and the Pike Place Market Creamery are the only stores left in Seattle selling raw milk, although as two independent stores, one of which is a co-op, these are stores I like to support.. And, of course, you can still buy it at farmers’ markets from Sea Breeze and St John’s Creamery (for goat milk). Dungeness Valley Creamery also still does drop-point sales, as does St John’s. St John’s is looking for new drop points in Seattle and I imagine Dungeness would be as well. Please help keep these farms in business!

If you’d like to comment, call PCC between 9-5 at: 206-547-1222. Ask for Trudy Bialic, Diana Crane, or Goldie Caughlan. I strongly encourage readers to do this. Be polite, and be clear.

I called and spoke with Diana, who was open to listening. She said that this is the direction they’re planning to go at the moment, but if they hear from enough customers that the tide is really going a different direction, they will reconsider. Some points I made that you may want to include:

  • PCC is a large chain of co-ops and thus, a leader in issues like this. As a supporter of local foods, PCC must realize their actions affect the sustainability of small farms, the accessibility of local foods, and the opinions of consumers. By dropping raw milk, PCC is likely to hurt the operations of these farms, to reduce the store availability of raw milk in Seattle to two neighborhood stores, and to convince more people that raw milk is harmful.
  • PCC has decided raw milk, more than any other product, has been the subject of recalls, and so they just felt it was too high a risk to sell it. That’s understandable, but it’s also important to note that a high number of recalls doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an unsafe product, it means it’s subject to more scrutiny and, frankly, politics. Especially lately, when the state seems to be increasing pressure on raw milk producers.
  • PCC positions itself as a health food store. Raw whole milk, which is often produced by small farms raising cows on grass, is a source of animal-based fat-soluble vitamins in which we’re increasingly deficient as they disappear from modern diets. Unpasteurized, the milk also contains enzymes that help with digestion and absorption. PCC sells sugar and sugar-filled items, sells vegetable oil, sells processed food; these foods also kill people, and far, far more than raw milk — but a slow death from diabetes or cardiovascular disease is less dramatic and media-attention-grabbing than someone suddenly dying from E. coli.
  • Customers should be able to make decisions for themselves based on accurate information. If raw milk were truly sickening everyone who consumed it (like, say, high fructose corn syrup), I could understand leaving it off the shelves. But, in reality, it’s a nutritious, unique product from small farms, that some people choose not to consume because they believe it to be higher risk. Leave it there, leave the warning up, and sell it for the customers who want it.

We’ve been pretty lucky in Washington State, compared to other states which limit or ban raw milk sales, and we’d like to keep it this way. Having raw milk available in stores makes raw milk production more financially realistic for small producers, and I’m worried this latest push is meant to drive producers out of business. And, while it’s true that occasionally there is a case of illness linked with raw milk, there are also many cases of illness linked with industrially produced foods, or widely-distributed foods, and we don’t see any long-term regulation on, say, bagged spinach and raw tomatoes. Nor do we see banning of foods that are, in the longer term, more insidiously harmful, like high fructose corn syrup or sugar.

There are a lot of voices against raw milk out there, many of whom have gotten their opinions straight from alarmist news articles. If you read enough articles saying raw milk is dangerous, or see enough signs in PCC saying raw milk sales have been canceled in the “interest of our customer health and safety,” you’ll likely also believe raw milk is an unsafe food. Countering this is difficult, but that makes it all the more important to try.

By the way, this would also be a great time to support Madison Market and Pike Place Creamery for selling raw milk.  And, as always, to buy direct from farmers at the farmers’ market.

Thanks to Just Chaos for the flickr CC photo.

Joel Salatin, creator of Polyface Farm (featured in the Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food, INC) and author of many books about innovative, sustainable agriculture, is speaking at a few events in Seattle on April 20th. Frustratingly, they’re all pretty expensive.

The following is a repost from the CAGJ (Community Alliance for Global Justice) email alerts.

Joel will be in town to help promote the film FRESH http://www.freshthemovie.com/ which examines some of the great efforts our country’s farmers are making to return to a smaller, more connected economy. Joel’s in town on April 20th and FRESH will be screening the following week.

For now, jump on these Joel Salatin events. I expect they’ll sell out early.

Details:

April 20th – Lunch with Joel Salatin
Noon – 2:00 PM

An intimate lunch with Joel at Seth Caswell’s new restaurant, Emmer & Rye (1825 Queen Anne Ave. N. Seattle, WA 98109). This is an opportunity to have a meal with this great leader and thinker of modern agricultural solutions. The lunch will cost $125 per guest and we’ll be donating 20% of the proceeds to Cascade Harvest Coalition, a non-profit organization that is a local food and farming resource center that promotes the Puget SoundFresh program, Eat Local for Thanksgiving, and many Farm-to-Table workshops for farmers (full disclosure – I am on the board of CHC). Lunch promises to bring together great food, great conversation and great energy that is driving this movement to smaller-scaled economies. A limited number of seats are available for this event. Tickets.

April 20th – Lecture “The Sheer Extacsy of Being a Lunatic Farmer”
6:00 – 7:30 PM
Kane Hall, University of Washington

In this mischievous lecture, Joel Salatin compares the industrial global food paradigm with the heritage local food paradigm. Using hilarious stories from his family’s Polyface Farm experience, Salatin examines the contrast on many different levels: fertility, carbon cycling, energy use, relationships, marketing, and spirit. If you ever wondered: “What’s really the difference between pastured poultry and Tyson’s”?–now you’ll know.

All proceeds go to support FRESH in their continuing efforts to educate and inspire communities about sustainable agriculture

Tickets: $25 At this event you will receive a movie voucher to see FRESH: Central Cinema April 30-May
NOTE: If you’re a student, add the code FRESHuwstudent and the price is $15.

April 20th – Lecture “Can you feed the world? — Answering elitism, production and choice.” 8:30 – 9:30 PM
Kane Hall, University of Washington

By far and away the two most common questions asked of Joel Salatin are: How can we afford local artisanal heritage-based food? And: Is it realistic to think we can really feed the world with a non-industrial food system? Because the local clean food movement, for all its allure, is still only some 2 percent of all food sales, envisioning it as a credible, viable alternative to industrial corporatized genetically modified food seems like pie-in-the-sky dreaming. Using his own Polyface Farm principles as a foundation, Joel builds this vision one piece at a time by blending theory and practice. You will never think about the food system the same way again.
All proceeds go to support FRESH in their continuing efforts to educate and inspire communities about sustainable agriculture.

Tickets: $25 At this event you will receive a movie voucher to see FRESH, Central Cinema, April 30-May
NOTE: If you’re a student, add the code FRESHuwstudent and the price is $15.

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

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.)

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.


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.

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.

I was just reading in this piece that Whole Foods has indefinitely ceased the sale of raw milk. I called their national headquarters to see if it was true, and it is; they’ve decided to cease all raw milk sales until there are “national standards” instead of state-by-state ones. I gave them my opinion on the matter, which is that I’m grateful to be living in a state where raw milk sales are legal and I have no interest in seeing that held back by a large company like Whole Foods, nor by waiting for change in the many other states where raw milk is not legal.

Whole Foods was the only carrier in Seattle proper of milk from Dungeness Valley Creamery, which I happen to really like. I’m a big fan of all the local raw milks (I count four available in Seattle), and because I like buying direct from the farmer or from smaller stores and co-ops anyway, it’s not the end of the world if I can’t get it from Whole Foods. Still, it was a nice treat sometimes and I disagree with their choice on principle because it limits some people’s access to raw milk and because waiting around for national standards is not going to benefit raw milk consumers. If you disagree too, you can call their headquarters at (512) 542-0878.

I also called and spoke with Debbie from Dungeness Valley Creamery. She confirmed that this had happened and that it has affected sales (the milk is still available outside Seattle and at a few drop points). She also confirmed what the initial article suggested, that the Department of Agriculture has been difficult for local raw milk producers. Earlier in the winter, a press release went out suggesting a link between DVC’s milk and E. coli bacteria, whereas E. coli was only found in an old cow patty in a pasture where some non-milking cows had been a few weeks before, and never in the milk. There’s a pretty good article on it here.

Considering what a loaded term E. coli is, and considering it was never found in their milk, and that it’s been found in vegetables that don’t become illegal to sell (spinach, tomatoes), the issuing of a press release feels like a targeted and intentional way to maintain a public fear of raw milk.

We’re lucky to live in a state where raw milk is readily available, even if, as a number of farmers have told me, it’s not easy to be a producer here. The Whole Foods situation is a reminder that we shouldn’t take what we have for granted, as is the current struggle in Wisconsin to legalize raw milk, where nearly 500 people showed up for a hearing recently on the subject.

To avoid getting complacent locally, continue supporting the local farms that sell raw milk. If you’d like to let the WA Department of Agriculture Food Safety program know how grateful you are to live in a state where raw milk is legal, or any other opinions on the subject, their number is 360.902.1876. It also never hurts to spend two minutes calling the helpful WA legislative hotline at 800.562.6000, where your opinion on anything relevant to the legislature can get recorded for your state representatives, senator and, if you’d like, the Governor. All you need to know is your address.

Thanks to upyourego for the flickr CC photo.

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.

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

There’s an article in today’s New York Times about ways human cultures have influenced our own evolutionary biology. It’s an interesting piece. Much of the article focuses on diet.

There are some finer points on which the article does not touch, and some ideas in it with which I disagree.

This is something I’m only beginning to learn about; genetics and evolutionary biology are not my field. Even for those in these fields, it seems our understanding is fairly young when it comes to gene expression, gene-environment interaction, and the connections between diet, evolutionary biology, adaptation and environmental health.

There is a nuanced difference between ways we evolve because it’s advantageous, and ways we adapt our behaviors because we need to thrive in an environment or context faster than evolution can keep up. For example, the article talks about “the declining weight of the human skeleton that seems to have accompanied the switch to settled life, which started some 15,000 years ago.” It’s true; the archeological record shows that that agrarian life –– including the fairly rapid switch to a large-scale consumption of grains –– had two dramatic effects on the human skeleton: our stature shrunk, and our teeth got worse. Smaller bones were likely not a rapid evolutionary adaptation to farming, they were a consequence.

It seems we have adapted genetically more quickly to some components of dietary change than to others. Grains seem to be in the “others” group. Virtually every culture that traditionally consumes grains has historically treated them in ways that make them easier to digest, more likely to release their nutrients, and lower in compounds like lectins that interfere with our metabolic health. This happens through sourdough fermentation, soaking, sprouting, nixtamalization, rinsing, and probably other traditional techniques of whose effects we’re not yet aware. It’s faster to learn techniques like this than to evolve.

It also seems other aspects of diet — both inclusion of protective foods and avoidance of detrimental ones — moderate the effects of genetic susceptibility. Genetics is one of many factors at play when, say, a culture takes up and reacts poorly to modern ingrdients like white flour, vegetable oil, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, processed foods or factory-farmed meat (instead of grass-fed, although it’s still healthier than a meatless diet). Adding poor quality ingredients into a diet is, of course, often concurrent with losing healthier ones. Genetics is often highlighted when one ethnic group seems more susceptible to obesity or diabetes, but poor diet may simply be differently visible depending on genetic makeup. These foods aren’t good for anybody, both for the essential nutrients they lack and the detrimental components they contain, and it doesn’t look like we’re going to evolve to handle them anytime soon.

While the article doesn’t go into detail about the Masai (or Maasai) tribe of Africa, it does include a picture of Masai herding cows with the caption: “Maasai tribesman are among a culture with adult lactose tolerance.” The Masai traditionally subsist on three primary foods: meat, blood and milk. They’re extremely healthy. But one study (pdf full text) from 1979 found, surprisingly, unusually high rates of lactose intolerance among the Masai, although none of the symptoms I associate with lactose intolerance. Admittedly, this was a tiny study with many flaws: tiny sample size, no discussion of selection methods or confounders, to start. But it’s the only hit on PubMed under Masai or Maasai and lactose.

What if the Masai were lactose intolerant, by our biological definitions, but without any of the symptoms with which we associate lactose intolerance, like flatulence or digestive discomfort? What if the genetic variable that manifests as lactose intolerance when someone is living an unhealthy lifestyle, and eating unfermented and/or pasteurized dairy, manifests differently when they are eating a healthy diet?

Anecdotally, this makes sense to me. I had symptoms of lactose intolerance for years, and would probably still get pretty digestively upset if I drank a 16-ounce milkshake (although I’d get pretty unhappy if I drank 16 ounces of anything). But two things made my lactose intolerance all but disappear: I gave up gluten, and I eat primarily fermented and unpasteurized dairy, both of which are lower in lactose.

The gluten issue is key; some studies, like this one, suggest people with celiac disease who exhibit lactose intolerance symptoms lose those symptoms entirely on a gluten-free diet. I usually suggest to friends with lactose intolerance and unexplained digestive issues to try cutting out gluten for 2-4 weeks, and try raw and fermented milk products. It’s possible that some cultures which can’t seem to handle lactose could do so in other dietary contexts. A case of genetic and dietary confounding.

We’re certainly evolving as a species, and the way culture and diet and socio-environmental factors affect that will be a subject of exploration and interest for a long time. But we have to remember it works two ways: we evolve to respond to culture, we create culture that reflects both our evolutionary adaptations and limitations.

Sources of local raw dairy

The following Washington State farms sell grass-fed raw milk at various farmers’ markets, co-ops or “natural foods” stores:
Dungeness Valley Creamery
Sea Breeze Farms
St John’s Creamery (goat milk)
Jackie’s Jerseys

Thanks to striatic for the flickr CC photo.

Nettle Pesto with Local Walnuts

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.

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.

Olympic-Sized Irony?

I haven’t been following the Olympics.  Not out of any lack of love for winter sports; I think they’re gorgeous, but I don’t have a TV and have been pretty busy writing a thesis and keeping up with grad school.

So I was surprised today when my cousin mentioned over lunch that McDonalds was a sponsor.  We were both pretty taken with the irony.  Eating fast food isn’t going to give anyone the kind of physical health they’ll need to be an Olympic athlete, and would impair such a goal.

Is this just another way we’re duping kids? McDonalds has a bunch of special logos for the Olympics; here’s their kid-targeted one:

We’ve gotten to a point where tobacco companies can be sued for marketing to kids, but McDonalds can imply their food will help kids grow up to be Olympic athletes.  Where cheap fast food comes with cheap toys, and where fast food is one of few affordable options for people with minimal income, who then lack health insurance to deal with its consequences.

This problem feels too institutionalized and large.  I derive some hope from the history of changes in tobacco legislation, but only so much.  The regulations on fast food often focus on the wrong things (e.g. salt and saturated fat rather than sugar and polyunsaturated omega-6 atty acids).  Also, despite tobacco regulations, kids still start smoking every year, and tobacco companies still use insidious marketing, especially outside the U.S.

Any thoughts on this? Is it harmless? Insidious? Is the irony transparent and, if so, to whom?  And how are the curling competitions going?  Enjoy watching for me too.

(PS: Whoa, just found this picture.  Isn’t that kind of incredibly creepy?)

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.

.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:


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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