Monday, October 18, 2010

Getting Ready for Winter at Ayers Creek Farm

This past weekend was hectic but I'd been looking forward to stopping at Ayers Creek Farm where Tito rules the fields.

Two days before I visited Ayers Creek Farm, I drove to Portland and had lunch with my publishers, and after an overnight stay at a cheap motel, I had a cooking demo Saturday morning at the Portland farmers' market. Okay, I went obsessively early and shopped for myself briefly. I couldn't pass up the hearty guavas, figs. or the artichokes but as I went from booth to booth, I quickly discovered the abundant garlic at Seattle markets was non-existent in Portland and I needed it for one of the recipes I wanted to cook. Where were the garlic braids of fall? Are we that far apart in growing seasons? I found one farmer selling garlic at the market, so it was perfect for the Garlicky Greens. I'd actually picked the recipe because it called for lots of garlic, sauteed until it caramelized and turned sweet. Caramelized garlic tames bitter greens.

Anyway a fun cooking assistant, Allison Jones showed up to help with the demo and she was funny, energetic, bubbly, and totally self-confident. I got Allison's blog before I left. It just seems to be the first thing you ask anyone these days. With so many bloggers, it's hard to keep up with them all, but check out her blog and discover what drives this Portland foodie.

In Corvallis that afternoon, I did a meet and greet at the GrassRoots book store, then an evening of catching up with my amazing editor Lorraine Anderson, who graciously cooked a black bean and corn pizza from my book for me. I fell asleep early and like my Cooking Assistant might say, I slept like a puppy. The next morning I headed for Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston, Oregon.
I hadn't visited Ayers' Creek Farm since I interviewed Anthony and Carol for my book, in the summer of 2008. This time I'd get to see how Anthony and Carol prepare for the winter Hillsdale farmers' market. They're scheduled to sell there from December through February and corn or polenta is one of the products they bring. It's made from flint corn (above). Anthony takes it off the cob and grinds it. The polenta is mostly yellow with little flecks of red from the flint corn. (Freshly ground polenta. How cool is that? I'm dreaming about the sweet flavor already.)

Anthony is also busy drying beans. Most dried beans are machine harvested but the Boutards let the beans dry in pods on the plant for as long as possible, then the beans are all hand-harvested and laid on screens before they're separated from the pods. The beans and grains are placed on screens in a room with fans and a dehumidifier to keep them dry. Carol told me they're prone to mold if you just spread either beans or grains on plastic. "You could easily lose all the grains or beans if you don't have air circulation." she'd said.

Look close and you can see some of the black beans separate from the pods, here.

'Can you stay for lunch?" Carol asked. She didn't have to ask twice. I love their over-sized kitchen and the colorful shredded carrots and beets looked perfect. Carol stirred, a creamy cauliflower soup and when she brought out a loaf of crusty artisan bread, I was in heaven. The lightly curried creamy soup was perfect on such a beautiful sunny autumn day.

I spotted these hot peppers drying in the sun and I had to snap a quick photo. These will also be sold at the winter market.
We sat down to eat and in our conversation I discovered Anthony just wrote a book about corn--all phases of corn from baby corn to polenta. The book will be printed by Timber Press and it sounds like it will be available next spring. I'm putting Anthony's book on my wish list now, and I'll preorder a copy, that's how much I'd like to read a book by Anthony Boutard.
I couldn't stay long because it's a long drive from Gaston, Oregon to Edmonds and Anthony and Carol had to get back to autumn farm chores. I felt like I'd interrupted enough already. Carol had to wash pumpkins and Anthony had to get the wheat crop planted.

"Would you like a few tomatoes, before you go?" Carol asked. She told me the tomatoes would be great roasted and made into sauce for winter. I couldn't believe this generous offer. Our own tomato crop got blight and we lost every tomato plant. Tomatoes grown by the Boutards were a lovely gift. We rode out to the rows of tomatoes with Tito, who loves all aspects of farm life.
I was tired, so I confess that I listened to The Girl Who Played With Fire on the way home and I got sucked into the story and almost wanted to keep driving just find out what happened to Lizbeth Salander.

My Cooking Assistant was so impressed with the box of tomatoes and peppers from one of my favorite farms. People who live in Portland--you are so lucky to have such great farmers like the Boutards!


Allison Jones said...

Great to meet you on Saturday! Next time you're in Portland, let me know!

ddzeller said...

I will, and you can tell me all about the Portland food scene!