Friday, September 25, 2009

The farm and farmer behind my CSA week 16

I can't believe all my time this week got diverted to working on a few articles for Marlene's Market and Deli's Sound Observer--one article about dried fruits, the other winter greens and hearty roots. I made myself hungry dreaming up winter meal possibilities.

I'd been meaning to post about my CSA all week, now here it is Friday night, all my produce is eaten, and tomorrow I pick up another CSA bag. I slipped the produce picture in below so you can see what I got this week. But in my opinion, a blog about my Stoney Plains Organic Farm summer CSA just isn't complete without a picture and a few words about the farmer.

This is Patrick Meyer,a second generation farmer; his farm is just south of Olympia. He took over the farm after his dad ,Bob Meyer, suddenly died following gall bladder surgery in 2002. In shock over Bob's death, Patrick's mom Patricia wondered what they'd do with the farm.

No one expected Bob's youngest son, Patrick, 26, to step up to the task. But that's exactly what he did.

"He's a carbon copy of his dad," Patricia told me. Like his dad, Patrick loves learning about how to grow everything better and his eyes brighten when he talks about their produce. Look for Bob Meyer's inspring road to farming story and his move from Minnesota to the Northwest in "Northwest Farm Memories" in the new edition of my cookbook Northwest Vegetarian Cooking (formerly Local Vegetarian Cooking)published by Timber Press in the spring of 2010.

Patrick is usually at the Saturday University District market. You can also find his older brother Tom and sometimes his nephew Justin at that market. Their long farmers' market tables are consistently filled with vibrant produce.

This week's CSA brought all these to our kitchen table: snow peas, slicing tomatoes, Golden Rave baby tomatoes, curly parsley, corn ,red beets, lemon basi and red potatoes. Yumm!

Finn again, checking it all out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Atlantic Queen pears

Last week, my friend Bill phoned and asked if we wanted some pears. Bill and Molly harvest apples, pears and plums every fall and I love Molly and Bill's unique fruit varieties, so I said I'd stop by that afternoon.

In their garage, I was greeted by the subtle perfume of pears and apples in towel-covered boxes because most weren't quite ripe yet. Pears are one fruit that must be picked before ripening (for the best flavor) and then allowed to ripen slowly in a cool dark place.

When Bill lifted a towel, I noticed the pears weren’t the sleek, perfect grocery store versions you see every fall. These were yellowish-green with russet at the top and a little on the bottom. They barely had any pear shape. Bill told me Atlantic Queens came from New Jersey. Emigrants from Europe brought them. They’d started orchards on the East Coast and some the orchards were abandoned for a number of years. But these hardy, neglected trees still produced fruit. Bill said Atlantic Queens will grow in poor soil and harsh conditions.

He cut a slice of a ripe pear and held it out. Moisture glistened on the creamy white flesh. I took a bite and was surprised by a texture slightly like a Bosc only more buttery with a very sweet flavor. Maybe it would be good grilled or lightly sautéed with walnuts. But maybe Atlantic Queens are perfect by themselves.

Before I left, Molly asked it I wanted some plums. I told her the squirrels eat all our plums every year; they can clean a tree off in one day. "And they just take one bite and throw it on the ground," Molly added. She handed me one that looked like a wild plum and told me that they got these plum trees from a friend who had found a number of trees that had sprouted up in her irrigation ditch. So Molly and Bill dug a few up and transplanted one or two trees to their yard.

How's that for food in your backyard? Finn knows how to wait but he’d certainly love it if I said “Okay.”

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Look who's hungry for apples and plums

These are my favorite Elephant Heart plums from Grouse Mountain Farm in Chelan. We didn't get any last year because Michael said they had trouble with pollination. The year before bears got a significant portion of the take (Grouse Mountain farm is remote, and the wild life is their main challenge). I feel lucky this year to see the return of my favorite plums. I also got some of their Gravenstein apples to make a coleslaw and one Elstar apple from Cliffside Orchards
Finn is beside himself with excitement. He gives four paws up for all my local favorites.

Cliffside Orchards: Meet the Hermans

This is Jeanette and Jeff Herman from Cliffside Orchards. They sell organic stone fruits (apricots, nectarines, peaches), apples and pears at Seattle farmers' markets. They also sell their great organic produce at the Spokane market and at one in Idaho, but Seattle continues to be their best.

Jeanette and Jeff usually get to the University District Farmers Market in about mid July. This year they had a bumper crop of nectarines and peaches and customers could buy boxes of seconds (not perfect looking) fruit for a bargain price. The Herman's farm is in Kettle Falls, just north of Spokane. It's about a 350 mile drive to Seattle but this it's been a big boost to their farm to sell here.

Jeanette and Jeff met pruning the orchards in eastern Washington in the 1970s. They married and later Jeanette's daughter was born at the same birth clinic in Mount Vernon where my daughter was born 33 years ago. It's funny how small the world suddenly seems when you discover links like that. Anyway, they moved onto their property in Kettle Falls the day after Mount St. Helen's blew in 1980. The Hermans experienced windstorms and hail and years when they made next to nothing because of the weather, but they've had good years, too and selling at Seattle markets really helps this small sustainable organic farm's bottom line. And buying from them helps our state's economy.

Cliffside Orchards has long been one of my favorite farms so when Timber Press offered the opportunity to update my cookbook and add farms, Cliffside Orchards was at the top of my list. Every late summer and fall, I stop at their booth at the University District market to hear farm news, sample new varieties of fruits and get cooking ideas from Jeanette. She always has time to share information about their fruit.

Look for a profile of Cliffside Orchards and Jeanette's recipe for Pear Clafouti in my cookbook to be published by Timber Press next spring. The original version Local Vegetarian Cooking (2004)was self-published and contained a number of profiles about Washington farmers.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Almonds don't grow in the Pacific Northwest

Massa Organics (rice and almonds) at the Ferry Plaza farmers' market in San Francisco.

One quick Internet transaction and look what my snail mail letter carrier delivered!
I often hear customers at Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards ask if they also grow almonds. The person at the booth always shakes her head and smiles.
Almonds, our oldest cultivated nuts and relative of peaches, plums and apricots, have a long history and can be traced back to archaeological sites in ancient Greece. These nuts require a long growing season, and the cool damp maritime climate in the Pacific Northwest just doesn't do it. But the climate in California is just perfect for them. In fact eighty percent of the world's almond crop grows in California.

It's an intense crop and in 2006, I wrote at article about honey bees for PCC Natural Market's Sound Consumer and I discovered that almond farmers rent all available beehives in California, plus 80 percent of the hives around the country and every February, convoys of trucks from 38 states, wind their way to the almond groves.

I never really thought much about the almond butter I bought at natural food stores but when my daughter and I visited my niece in San Francisco, I was overwhelmed by a giant picture of an almond orchard in bloom when we stopped at San Francisco's Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market. The market was crowded and fun and all kinds of different booths intrigued me. One was Massa Organics, a rice farm that also sold almond butter. I got 4 pounds of rice and a jar of almond butter. It was love at first bite with the almond butter. I'd never go back to the variety offered by my natural foods store.

Okay I know farmers grow walnuts and hazelnuts here, but living a strictly locavore life isn't for me because it's simply too puritanical. I often think many people in our culture are so spoiled by food abundance we have little awareness of other people in the world who might eat anything available. When some people don't even have access to clean water to drink, it's ridiculous and petty to stress over whether or not you ate a banana, indulged in a slice of bread or enjoyed a steak.

Going overboard for peaches and nectarines

This is the lash hurrah for peaches and nectaines at the farmers' markets. Load up while you can because the weather is turning cool and it's time for apples to take their places on market tables. When they're this good, you can't stop with just one. We're so lucky in the Northwest to enjoy this great food. These luscious stone fruits are from:

  • Rama Farm, farmed by Rick and Marilyn Lynn in Bridgeport, Washington (2 boxes--a double layer of nectarines and single for peaches. (A Certified Organic farm)

  • Grouse Mountain Farm, farmed by Liz Eggers and Michael Hemphill in Chelan, Washington. Two different kinds of peaches, one white (a cling peach--how often you get those anymore? And the rest yellow peach. Blazing Star was the enticing name. ( A Certified Organic farm)

  • Cliffside Orchards, farmed by Jeanette and Jeff Herman in Kettle Falls, Washington (dried nectarines and Suncrest peaches. (A Certified Organic farm) Suncrest are the peaches made famous in Epitath for a Peach: Four Seasons on My Family Farm by David Mas Masumoto. Jeanette mentioned she'd seem this author recently at Elliot Bay Bookstore. He was reading from his new book,check it out at a bookstore near you.

I got all these nectaines and peaches from the University District farmers' market These farms are all in my cookbook, an updated version of Local Vegetarian Cooking ( my first cookbook, published in 2004.

What did I do with all this fruit? Ate lots raw, gave five friends fruit, dehydrated and froze the rest.

CSA week 15 reluctantly sharing the bounty

Skilled at stealing produce, Finn sat close but didn't look directly at my Stoney Plains CSA. I forgot to set the eggs on the bench here, but I knew if I'd gone inside to retrieve them, a number of carrots would have been missing when I returned. He managed to get the potato when I was cleaning up, but he discarded it. I'm not too fussy; I washed it off and used it.

Here is what was in my CSA bag this week: eggs, pears, chesnok red garlic, chives, cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, yukon potatoes and shelling peas. I used some of the potatoes I got from Rent's Due Ranch at the University District farmers' market and along with Finn's potato and I made mashed potatoes with Dungeness Valley Creamery milk ( ). Here's a recipe that's pure comfort food, just change the produce you use to suit any season. If you don't own an oven-proof skillet, place the vegetable mixture into a baking dish and cover with potatoes and bake.

Shepherd's Pie

I just finished revising this recipe for an article for Vegetarian Journal ( A Shepherd's Pie is on one dish meal baked in a skillet. This is a version of it. Mom's old Betty Crocker Cookbook from 1969 listed instant mashed potatoes in the ingredient list. Whatever you do, use real potatoes for this dish. Free to make this dish your own with rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, hot peppers or anything else that calls to you.

2 1/2 cups mashed potatoes

1/4 cup salsa

1 cup diced onion or shallots

1 1/2 tablespoons safflower oil

1 jalapeno, minced (optional)

5 cups seasonal vegetables, cut into bite-size pieces (carrots, squash, cauliflower, green beans, summer squash)

1 cup water

1/4 cup white miso

2 tablespoons arrowroot

1 cup cooked, or canned, drained beans (any variety except black)

2 tablespoons cold butter (optional)


Blend salsa into mashed potatoes.(Set aside.) Heat a 10-inch, oven-proof skillet and saute onion and jalapeno until soft.

Add vegetables and stir. Add a little of the water, stir, cover and braise vegetables for a few minutes. Blend miso and arroroot into the remaining water. Stir into vegetables with beans and cook on medium for about 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove vegetables from stovetop and spread mashed potatoes over the top. Cut butter into chunks and place randomly over the top. Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Miso gravy will bubble up over the potatoes.

Hint:: Unless you add the jalapeno, this recipe is not very spicy. I often toss in some Mama Lil's peppers (

Stoney Plains farmers

I wanted to include a photo of the farmer, Patrick Meyer, this week, but Patrick wasn't at the farmers' market ( So I asked Justin to pose for a photo for this blog. Founding farmer Bob Meyer passed away unexpectadly in 2002 and wife Patricia and son Patrick now run this farm. Justin is Bob's grandson and I remember Justin years ago as a gangly teenager. Now he's a dad and works at the University District market sometimes. Bob Meyer's story is one of the farm profiles in Local Vegetarian Cooking (

Look for an updated profile of this farm in the latest version of my Pacific Northwest vegetarian cookbook It will be published by Timber Press next spring. (

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tom's Chile Rellenos

What's the best thing in life besides family, friends and a cute dog? For me, it's a great chile relleno, that's what. These are peppers roasting at Billy's Garden at the University District Farmer's Market. The decadent treasures lure me with their smoky aroma that wafts through the market. The colors, the smoky flavors--these peppers are so good grilled you can put them on anything, but chile rellenos are at the top of the list for me.

Many people like the meek and mild Anaheim chiles, but for for me they're like a guy in a gra flannel suit--long, thin and boring. Nothing but poblanos will do. Poblanos harbor an element of surprise because they range from mild to mouth-watering hot. Mark Miller in The Great Chile Book says roasting gives the poblano a fuller, smoky more earthy flavor."

Just in case the heat might overwhelm us, I cook a pot of rice or beans. You could also have a bit of plain yogurt on the side, but never try and douse the flames with water, that just spreads it around. And be sure and wash your hands after handling the seeds because the oil clings to your fingers. I've been in tears over those little seeds after touching my eyes.

You can find most of the other ingredients locally, too. The eggs came with my CSA from Stoney Plains and the cheese came from Appel Farms

I laid out all my market finds for this dinner and guess who showed up? He hasn't started the long drool just yet, but he certainly has his eye on the cheese. He has no idea the heat in this cheese will bite him back.

If you need to preroast your fresh chiles, set the oven temperature for about 450 degrees. Put the chiles on a baking sheet and turn with long tongs when each side blackens.

This is Tom's speciality in the kitchen. My job is easy, leave the kitchen, take Finn next door to drop off a few Rama peaches for my neighbors.

Tom's Chile Rellenos

6 to 8 chiles, roasted with seeds and stem removed

6 to 8 slices of cheese (about 3-inches long)

6 tablespoons flour

3 or 4 extra large egg (use 3 for 6 chiles and 4 for 8)

1/4 teaspoon salt

Safflower oil* (use enough to make 1/2 inch oil in the frying pan; don't skimp on oil)

1.Stuff each chile with a slice of cheese. It should fill the inside of the chile.

2. Measure 4 tablespoons of flour onto a plate and dip each chile in flour. Set aside. Reserve the remaining two tablespoons of flour.

3. Separate the egg yolks from the whites and place the whites into a stainless steel or glass bowl. It doesn't matter what kind of bowl the yolks are placed in. Beat the two tablespoons of flour into the yolks. With an electric mixer beat the whites until stiff peaks form.

4. Gently fold the yolk mixture into the stiff whites.

5. Heat the oil over medium heat in a medium frying pan. Dip the stuffed chiles into the egg mixture and fry in hot oil until the bottoms are golden brown. Flip and cook the other side. Allow about 3 to 4 minutes per side.

6. Transfer the chile rellenos to a towel-covered plate (not terry cloth) so they can drain. Serve with refried beans and salsa.

And this is what it looks like--the greens are from Willie Green's Organic Farm; the tomatoes from Grouse Mountain Farm; the cucumbers from Nash's Organic Produce and the black beans from the Alvaraz Farm. The salsa came from Austin,Texas--the best place in the world for hot sauce.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Nash's Farm Store and the 100-Mile Harvest Dinner

I'd posted yesterday about driving to Nash's Farm Store ( and I suddenly woke up this morning and realized I hadn't specified where Nash's farm and the store are. Sequim is a small town on the Olympic Penninsula.  It takes about an hour to get there from Seattle.  I take the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry, then the drive through Port Gamble and bypass Port Townsend. (But do stop there if you have time, because the Port Townsend Co-op has produce from local farmers and local artisans on Saturdays in the summer, the farmers' market is a perfect lunch destination.)

As you can see, Nash's Farm Store (above) has rustic appeal.  Though it looks small, the store has an amazing amount of farm produce and community members are always shopping here.  Inside, Ellen reminded me that farm day on the Penninsula is October 3.  I noticed this month's copy of Edible Seattle ( mentioned the Festival of Family Farms in Skagit Valley  on the same weekend and the King County Harvest Celebration on September 26, but no mention of the Clallam County farm festival on the Penninsula, and this is actually where the farm festivals began. Anyway on October 3, a  number of farms on the Peninsula open their barns and fields, giving tours and demonstrations, and in the evening Nash's farm hosts a barn dance and a fantastic potluck.  The food is laid out on a long table, everyone contributes their favorite recipe.  It's a feast. The dance often features  a Seattle band and everything from jitterbug to 70s freestyle to hip hop goes. The price of admission is minimal and the proceeds went to their farm to cafeteria program one year and to Friends of the Fields ( the next.

On September 27, Friends of the Fields is hosting a 100-Mile Harvest Dinner.  The proceeds from 75% of the ticket sales go to saving Finn Hall Farm.  This is a Sunday evening and it sounds like a delicious event.

On another note the most recent farm letter for Nash's Farm CSA mentioned the Olympic Gleaners.  The gleaners are volunteers who harvest surplus produce and distribute it to food banks and organizations like the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen and various shelters.  This year 50 volunteers harvested more than 4,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables from private homes and local farms.  Nash's newsletter said that 1,500 pounds of produce came from Nash's farm.  Now that's what I call an Incredible Feast!

This is my book, Local Vegetarian Cooking at Nash's Farm Store. This was one of the first places that sold copies of my book in 2005.  The book and Nash's farm profile have been revised for the newest edition of my book, due out in spring 2010.  Timber Press in Portland   is publishing the revised edition that will include Oregon farms.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Farmland is for food

I delivered some of my cookbooks Local Vegetarian Cooking to Nash's Farm Store ( last Friday. I love to read on the ferry and I look forward to seeing the familiar signboard right before I get to Nash's farm store. This time it welcomed community members to check out the "far out" produce this farm delivers. I smiled thinking of the tye dye shirts that advertise Nash's farm for sale in the rustic store. They're planning on moving the store to an old dairy building on their property not far away, hopefully next spring. The store has a rustic charm. Part of it is under canvas with a dirt floor right now and this time of year Nash's farmers are busy trying to keep up with the harvest.

It's fun to see what's new in the farm store, and this time I spotted figs on the front table. "Does Nash grow these too?" I'd asked. "No," said the young man behind the counter. "A farmer down the road grows them." Four figs for two dollars. I couldn't resist and I got two baskets. I like to look around and see the different things from other local farmers and artisans in their store.

In the outside room was a big sign about protecting local farmland and advertising a local farmland organization, Friends of the Fields ( Their goal is "To preserve and protect sustainable agriculture in Clallam County, Washington, ensuring the availability of local food and the quality of life that our rural setting provides." I donated on my way our and you can too even if you don't go to the store. Just go to the website and read about their goals and the farm they're saving. Nash Huber won the prestigeious "Land Steward of the Year," ( by American Farmland Trust, the premeir organization for saving farmland nationwide. Check out his story at their website, then click onto the Friends of the Fields website and help support them. We need to maintain our organic farmland for a stonger deep rooted food based economy.

Before heading home, I stopped at the Dungeness Creamery just down the road from Nash's. I don't usually drink milk, not the pasturized overprocessed kind in grocrery stores, but I love the raw milk from this local dairy and always carry an ice chest, filled with ice to this farm-food destination so I can safely transport some raw milk home.

"No local chocolates," I said when I walked in the store. "We haven't had those for awhile," said the woman behind the counter. Oh well, I'm happy with the milk to make ice cream this weekend. "Nectarine ice cream," I'd said, thinking about my box of nectarines from my Rama Farm CSA. The woman behind the counter nodded approval. This photo of a cow and her new born calf was one I snapped at a previous visit to this great food destination. This is proof that local sustainable farmland is worth saving.

Will the real shallot please step forward

At the University District farmers' market, a small container of shallots(left) caught my eye at Grouse Mountain Farm. Two small bags of large dirty garlic-like cloves sat like lonely vagabonds. The two bags were all Liz Eggers had for sale. The sign in front said "Grey Shallots, $5 a bag. "They don't look like shallots," I'd said.
"Those are true shallots," Liz said. "Most people don't sell the real ones, just the hybrids, but these are the real thing."
I picked up the bag and tried to imagine their flavor. "You don't need many to flavor the dish," she'd said. Cooking them solo, so you could taste them is best. I bought a bag, took it home and peeled and sliced them, a bit tedious. I sauteed it until it was crispy like my friend Patty does. We cooked baby bok choy and topped them with crispy shallots. The sweet crispy shallots complimented the slightly bitter greens. They had the kind of flavor I love to recall when I'm in a blah mood.
Though some farmers grow shallots in the Northwest, it's one vegetable that I completely forgot to include in my list of produce grown in the Northwest in my book Local Vegetarian Cooking ( I couldn't believe I'd discovered an omission now, before it's even been printed, but too late to add anything. All you true shallot growers, I'm sorry. Maybe I was an onions snob who hadn't really considered shallots much more than an onions-shallot cross.
To learn more about shallots, I consulted two reference books. The first, The Food Lovers Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst, says there are two types of shallots "the Jersey shallot or 'false' shallot, [the larger of the two on the book page above] and the more stubtly flavored 'true' shallot." In the Essential Reference Vegetables From Amaranth to Zucchini," Elizabeth Schneider says, "The esteemed gray shallot, also bulb propagated, and smaller and stronger than others, is a separate species little known outside France." Sheneider goes on to say shallots probably originated in Central Asia, then travled to India before arriving in the Mediterranean. I couldn't wait to tell Liz I'd done my homework. I saved part of my purchase and I'd plan to plant them soon because this is the time of year to plant garlic and shallots.
While looking for gardening tools at Wights ( for some gardening tools when I found a handout on how to grow garlic. I took it, thinking I'd use the information and when I got home, I turned the handout over and it said: "How to Grow Shallots and Their Relatives." Serendipity. Liz is brining me a few more shallots to plant next week. Maybe next summer's harvest season I'll be harvesting the real thing--gray shallots from Grouse Mountain Farm.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Backyard gems

Last week a friend offered to get some figs for me and this is what he gave me. It may not look like much, especially to people who live in California and see tons of figs pass through the farmers' markets, but figs are a rare treat in Washington and I've come to love them for this.

For years, I'd put in my fig pleas to Wade Bennett of Rockridge Orchards. His farm is in Enumclaw (south of Seattle) and his fig crop was sold every year to chefs. His treasures never made it to farmers' markets,but I often hear about them because I talk to Wade at the University District market. One year when he finally had enough to sell me $40 worth, my father suddenly passed away and I was out of town when the figs were ready. The next winter we had crazy weather--a snow, that lasted for a week, then melt off, a freeze and another snow--and when I next saw Wade, he said he lost most of his well-established fig trees. The ice got into cracks in the trees and split them. What a sad lost harvest.

Last summer to revise the farm profiles in my cookbook, I traveled through Oregon and I found the best figs at the Eugene farmers' market from Grateful Harvest Farm ( in Junction City. I have to admit figs were a big reason for including this farm in my revised cookbook--the sweet treasures attracted me to the farm booth and led to my talks with the farmer Charles Duryea. He says that one of the hardest things about organic farming is getting good fruit consistency year after year. His fig trees are under cover in a greenhouse, along with heirloom tomatoes that also need more warmth and sun. If I could think of a reason besides figs to drive to Eugene, I'd go get some of those sweet figs and savor them like a sunset. For those who live in the area--don't miss the sweet treasures from this farm!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Strategies and tips for using CSA produce

It's week 14 of my 20 week Stoney Plains CSA . When I get my bag at the market, I wonder what's in this fabulous grab bag of produce for the week. I slip out the information sheet and gaze at the contents listed: butter lettuce, shelling peas, snow peas, arugula, turnips, corn, carrots, Tsoi-Tism ( a green for salads) and fresh black beans still in the pods. (These are the cream colored beans at the bottom of the photo.) Hidden in their pods, these black beans are a market treasure found in late summer or early autumn. They're so much better than their dried cousins. Each week I look at everything as a dinner possibility and use the list to decide what else I might need to purchase at the market because my purchases rarely spill over to grocery store purchases.

At home, I quickly size up what needs to be eaten first and the turnips looked like my first choice. These underrated greens are similar to collards and kale with medicinal qualities, but the flavor is mild with only a hint of bitterness.

Turnip Greens Soup is something I invented one day when I had that "right now" craving for food.

  • Use all the turnip greens--wash, chop and steam
  • Puree these with lemon juice, a dash of agave nectar, a pinch of salt and Mama Lil's peppers.
  • For a creamy touch, add a drizzle of hazelnut butter from Holmquist Orchards. You can also use almond butter and I usually have some. My favorite comes from Massa Organics an organic family farm in California

The next day, I made a pizza with onions from Willie Greens Organic Farm ( and the big bunch of arugula.

Onion-Arugula Pizza. (Have I mentioned I'm a lazy cook most of the time?) Here is all I did:

  • Use prepared pizza crust, I found a frozen, cornmeal crust at PCC Natural Markets.Peel, slice and saute the onions in olive oil over medium to low heat until soft.
  • Add Mama Lil's peppers (also found at PCC Natural Markets, Whole Foods or other food specialty stores), a couple cloves of garlic (pressed or minced)and finally the entire bunch of arugula.
  • Cook this until it becomes soft. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the vegetables and this was it. Finally garnish with a grated smoky Gouda cheese from Appel Farms ( Or use your own favorite cheese for garnish. If you don't use cheese, sprinkle with a little sea salt.

The following evening it was black beans and corn for a salad, made from a recipe I'd adapted from my book Local Vegetarian Cooking.

Black Bean and Corn Salad provides endless fodder for adaptions. Don't forget, fresh black beans only need to be removed from the pods and cooked. Unlike their dried cousins, they don't require soaking.

  • First, steam 2 cups fresh black beans until tender (if you don't have fresh black beans use about 1 1/2 cups canned or dried, soaked and cooked).
  • While these steam, combine in a blender: 3 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon agave nectar or sugar, 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 3 cloves garlic (pressed), 1 jalapeno, minced (remove seeds if you don't like the heat)
  • Scrape corn from 2 or 3 medium to large cobs (preferably picked fresh that day). My recipe in the book also uses 1 cup couscous and 1 cup boiling water. This will obviously make the salad go farther. If you want to include this, just pour the boiling water over the couscous and wait five minutes.
  • Finally add 1/3 cup sliced green onions, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, salsa (your favorite) to taste and salt (also optional)

This salad can be enjoyed with warm corn tortillas or chilled and used the next day as a burrito filling.

The shelling peas were an afternoon snack but what about the lettuce, Tsoi-Tism turnips, snow peas and carrots? Always use tender greens early in the week because they may not make it the entire week. Get other salad ingredients at the market such as cucumbers and tomatoes to go with the lettuce. Slice the turnips and carrots and saute them with the snow peas. You can combine these with rice or use them as a side dish.

I must say, this time of year, it's much easier to use up everything in my CSA box because of the wide diversity. It's much more challenging in the spring with the deluge of greens and I suspect cooking may challenge me near the end in the fall as well.

Fall Fruit in the Pacific Northwest

In additon to my box of Rama nectaines, this is the fruit I got at the Seattle University District farmers' market on Saturday. The raspberries came from Rent's Due Ranch, the Italian plums a generous git from Wade Bennett of Rockridge Orchards, and the unique varieties of grapes, pears and apples are from Grouse Mountain, in Chelan Washington. Finally, the mountain huckleberries were entirely an impulse purchase from Jeremy Faber at Found and Foraged.

I stood in line to buy chanterelle mushrooms and a very pregnant woman in front of me was buying huckleberries--a lot of them, more than I'd seen anyone else purchase at once. "So many huckleberries," I'd blurted out. She turned to me and said, "We ate six pounds of these last week; I hope to at least freeze some this week." Then she grabbed a handful of berries and ate them all at once, shoveling them in shamelessly.

Her hunger for local treasures was contagous and I immediately wanted huckleberries. These tiny local berries are sometimes mistaken for wild blueberries, but a huckleberry has a tougher skin and more astringent flavor. In The Berry Bible, Janie Hibler says the blue or Cascade huckleberry has the most "prized flavor." And bears love them too, so hikers and foragers should be aware that when they harvest huckleberries, they're taking a bear's food so be aware of these hungry wild diners in the area. Heibler says to eat them huckleberries fresh or use them in pancakes, muffins or desserts. She adds that their flavor is enhanced when they are heated with just a pinch of sugar and orange or lemon juice. I like them in smoothies with something sweet like blueberries, peaches or nectarines:

(Serves 2)
1 cup huckleberries
1 pitted nectarine
Juice and zest of 1 orange
1 or 2 tablespoons almond or hazelnut butter
1 tablespoon flax seed oil
1 ripe banana
1 cup ice cubes
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Pour into two glasses and enjoy.

Friday, September 4, 2009

No Impact Man: the price of inspiration

As I was trolling the blog universe months ago looking for good blogs, I remembered "No Impact Man." I'd heard about this blog over a year ago and I'd started following it but following blogs was one of the many things I dropped when I spent so much of my time revising my cookbook last year. Now, No Impact Man is one of the blogs I regurarly follow. In fact, I was so inspired, I ordered No Impact Man, the book.

I counted down days until the book arrived While I waited, I found this very cool trailer for the No Impact Man movie at . If this trailer doesn't sell you on the story, go back to your McBurger dream world and find another blog to read.

Friday No Impact Man arrived. After taking this photo, I immediately got into Colin Beavan's story--the differences between Colin and Michaele and everyday dilemmas like visiting his inlaws, blowing his nose, enjoying a slice of pizza from a favorite vendor. I laughed out loud when I read the chapter "How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint and Anger Your Mom at the Same Time." Turns out, everything we do, even visiting with family has an impact on the earth one way or another. Colin didn't make exceptions to his experiment; if he cheated, he cheated. Making exceptions was a big disappointment with other books like Plenty by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon.

I couldn't put the book down without being inspired to do more for the planet. Colin Beavan's writing is compelling, funny and inspiring. From the moment he gathtered his trash and spread it in across the floor examining who he was by what he used, I become more self-aware every time I think about tossing anything a garbage can, or buy anything in a container. I once threw out an entire box of plastic PCC Natural Markets' deli containers and the sight of all that throwaway plastic placed in a garbage can by me because it couldn't be recycled and of course the store doesn't take it back, made me vow to never to order deli again unless I can buy it in a returnable container or my own glass container.

Trying to have no carbon footprint is a Zen experiment, a dance with nature with every choice we make. Knowing that a community of bloggers interacting with No Impact Man are doing positive things to help the planet is downright inspiring. And inpiration is something we could all use more of these days.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Less than six degrees of separation

The urban dictionary defines the six degrees of separation as "The theory that any two people in the world are connected in some way by no more than six people." I wondered if this theory held true for books.

One of my favorite books in the last decade is the Omnivore's Dilemma (right) by Michael Pollen. In particular I liked his chapter called "The Ethics of Eating Animals" with "The Steakhouse Dialogues." Pollen wrote about reading Peter Singer's book Animal Liberation while enjoying a steak decades ago. He went on to say how most of us would rather not be reminded what's involved in bringing that steak to the table and then he pondered Singer's philosophical arguments. Do animals reason? Do we have the right to raise them for food? And how exactly do we justify killing animals for dinner. Presenting the other side, Pollen suggested we've lost something by being vegetarian; we've alienated ourselves from cultural traditions that involve eating meat.

Singer's book from the 1970s hooked me, too, but then I'd hated eating meat, poultry and fish ever since I can remember. As a child my father forced me to cut up the leathery stuff on my plate and I swore when I grew up I wouldn't eat the stuff. My father was an excellent fisherman but boning trout, pounding abalone until it was tender and watching lobster boil for dinner, never made me hungry. When I met my husband Tom, he was raising pastured beef. Killed humanely, it was still beef to me. My culinary preferences remind me of my sister-in-law's aversion to strawberries. She can't stand them in anything, even the smell makes her nauseous. This culture doesn't ostracise people for the fruits or vegetables they won't eat, but many people get offended or don't know what to cook for people who don't eat meat. "You'll like our meat," I've heard farmers say. No I won't. Singer's book was right on and it gave me the excuse I was looking for to give up meat entirely and not feel bad about hurting some chef's feelings.

To get back to my title post, what's a vegetarian doing promoting books about pastured meats and how are these books related to my vegetarian cookbook? Okay, here it is: world traveler and writer Sharon Morris, Jo Robinson's sister, is in my writing group. Jo Robinson, New York Times best selling author of Pasture Perfect has spoken about book publishing and writing to our group. Her book is also sold at the farmers' markets by farmers who raise pastured beef. Jo has a website that I've mentioned before One of the farm profiles in the revised version of my book, Winter Green Farm in Noti, Oregon , has a link to Jo's website because they also sell pastured beef. Also, meticulous researcher Jo Robinson, contributed a great deal of information to Michael Pollen's book The Omnivore's Dilemma, check the aknowledgments. There you go, less than six degrees. Maybe next I'll find a link to Julia Child.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Giant carrots take center stage

When I spotted the giant carrots at Lettuce Us Farm at the University District farmers' market, I asked a question many people ask. "Are they sweet all the way through?" The farmer assured me they were. Big vegetables are often stereotyped as tough and tasteless; even my friend at the market said, "I bet they aren't sweet," after I bought them. I got the carrots on the right from my Stoney Plains' CSA and the ones on the left from the urban garden I visited later in the day. Stacy and Bob Gradwhol chose these little carrot pearls because they'd enjoyed them in Europe. I had the smallest carrots pegged as supersweet in my mind.
The big surprise was that the big carrots from Lettuce Farm were the sweet winners of the week . They had great sweet carrot flavor and were tender all the way through. Besides enjoying them raw, here is a recipe I made with them:

1 cup cooked drained garbanzos
1 cup steamed carrots
1/4 cup water
2 or 3 tablespoons tahini
1/2 lemon--juice and zest (about 2 1/2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey (optional)
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Salt to taste
Finely chopped cilantro for garnish

Place garbanzos, carrots, water, tahini, lemon juice and zest, agave nectar, garlic and cayenne in a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. Add salt to taste. Garnish with cilantro or parsley.