One of the biggest impacts we have on the planet is the way we eat. Stigma’s and elitisms aside, eating locally, seasonally, and organically is one of the best things we can do to spare the environment. Here are a few of my favorite kitchen and pantry staples that are either from close by or are amazing products grown with eco-friendly, biodynamic methods.
1. Eating Locally, Seasonally, and GMO-free. The average piece of produce on the shelf is 7-10 days old! Nutrients dissipate, so supporting your local farmer means fresher, happier produce, but it also means you’re eating what’s in season. You know those beautiful berries you see at the store in December? Perhaps they’re organic, perhaps not; regardless though, we aren’t meant to eat berries in December. Industrial Organic agriculture may have fewer pesticides but it is far from eco-friendly as the amount of irrigated water and transportation (often times) into the country takes a huge amount of resources. This article from the New York Times sheds some light on the Industrial Organic model. It’s sadly, not a good one.
2. Briden Wilson Farms Organic Almonds A family farm in Arbuckle, California that produces beautiful, organic raw almonds. They grow both natural and organic, but it’s very exciting that they have just planted an additional organic orchard. It shows that every socially responsible food purchase you make is a vote toward greener agriculture. As they live and work on the farm their use of chemicals for the natural almonds is often avoided by encouraging natural predators to the pests that will help to minimize disease and infestation. We love supporting this small family farm, so we purchase these almonds in bulk for homemade almond milk, and almond butter.
3. Aptera Olive Oil When I can’t get a product locally, I make sure that what I do get is of superior quality and produced with eco-friendly practices. This olive oil from the island of Crete is not only one of the best olive oils in our collection, but the pricepoint is crazy affordable. It is also naturally organic as it is illegal to spray pesticides on the island. Most of the island still uses old-world biodynamic farming methods. I get this guy at Central Co-op.
4. de Buyer Mineral B Pans It’s virtually impossible to find non non-stick pans. Everything has a teflon coating (even Polar Bears and dolphins do now). It’s a toxic chemical that we don’t want in us (women of child-bearing age and children especially), and we don’t want in our water. Making the switch to steel pans may take slightly more care than conventional non-sticks, but your cooking, your food, and even your health will improve dramatically.
de Buyer has been manufacturing steel pans in France since 1830. The Mineral B pans are made of 99% iron with no chemicals or coatings. An organic beeswax finish is used to prevent oxidation during shipping, and also to aid in seasoning for natural non-stick surface. These pans are not only free from chemicals, but they are the best you can get period. Now easily found stateside, you can find them at Williams Sonoma and other kitchen shops.
5. Pride and Joy Raw Milk You know your milk will be good when the farmers consider themselves “grass farmers who also milk cows.” Pride and Joy manages their pastures without the use of any chemicals or genetically modified ingredients because their cows eat 100% grass (clover, alfalfa, and chicory too) during grazing season, and the finest hay during non-grazing months. While this leads to a lower yield per cow it ultimately results in a healthier herd and the highest quality milk. Their cows produce milk for up to 12 years, compared to just 3-4 with a conventional dairy. The girls are never given hormones and when antibiotics are used (only in life threatening situations) that cow is removed from the herd, the milk is not used, and the cow is no longer considered organic.
Raw milk is very difficult to find in Washington state, but it’s important to use in place of pasteurized because it is alive with active enzymes, antioxidants, and amino and fatty acids. All of this and more is killed during pasturization and homogenization. Unpasteurized means less resources and energy. Better for you and better for the environment.
Located in Granger, WA. Milk is available for pick-up, but also available at certain co-ops in Seattle. If you’re not in the Seattle area, look for a local dairy and research their farm and practices.
6. Hama Hama Oysters Sustainably farmed at the base of the Hama Hama river, in the Hood Canal, the Hama Hama oyster farm has been around since 1922. The oysters grow slowly taking twice as long to reach maturity. Still owned by the same family the farming practices from the oysters to the sustainably harvested timber are as green as you can get. We love our Hama Hama’s. And if you’re interested, you’ll find Andrew and me at their Oyster Rama this Saturday (April 27th).
7. Bob’s Red Mill Employee owned, non-GMO seeds, and one of the largest organic whole grains lines in the country Bob’s uses traditional methods of grinding whole grains with a stone mill that stays at cool temperatures. This ensures the nutrients stay in tact and uses less energy. Milling, testing, packaging, and distributing is all done in-house too. We don’t use too much flour, but when I bake I love Bob’s organic flour. We also love his stone ground oats for oatmeal.
8. Jo Landron Atmospheres sparkling wine One of my all-time favorite glasses of bubbly you may remember my post on it here. In 1999 the vineyard was certified as 100% organic and by 2008 the vineyard was converted and certified as fully biodynamic. The fruit is only ever harvested by hand, and the bubbly itself is created in the traditional method meaning that the second fermentation is done in the bottle. If I’m going to enjoy a bottle of sparkling wine it’s so much better knowing it’s biodynamic and chemical-free. (Hence, no hangover the next day!)
I knew the bees were struggling, but everything I’d read last year and my chats with the apiarist at the farmer’s market led me to believe, or at least, hope that they were doing better. But sadly this article from the NY Times last week confirmed what I knew was the reality. To me there is no “mystery” as to why the bees are dying; it’s pretty freaking obvious. I truly hope that forward thinking farmers and apiarists can help combat monoculture crops and their rainbow of pesticides before we lose our honey bees.
For Seattle friends who want to help support our bees check out The Pollinator Pathway project and see what native and even some foreign plants can help encourage our bees. They have a great list of plants and even some garden designs that will make it even easier to get your planting strip bee ready.
Our next project is a bit of a biggie, and for me it’s a definite first as I am very much not a dirty girl. My friends, I have been busy researching, studying, note-taking on all things urban farmer and I couldn’t be more excited. For someone who loves the farmer’s market, eating seasonally, and craves vegetables as much as chocolate it only makes sense that I should learn how to tend a garden. I’m starting from absolute zero, in fact, I probably couldn’t know less about gardening so much will be learned in practice. I received some great advice from Andrew’s wonderful mom though, and she put it simply:
“Be prepared to kill a lot of plants.”
So get ready for an honest look at my first attempt at gardening and raising four chickens. (I wonder if this means I’ll have to clean the coop.) This will be interesting.
I also wanted to share this killer Ted Talks video with guerilla gardener Ron Finley in South Central LA. His vision and work on Food Forests in the vacant lots of South Central is inspiring and exciting (especially having to initially fight the city for the right to use the land in the parking strip in front of his house). Another great quote I’ll have on hand, Ron says:
“Don’t call me if you want to sit around and have meetings. If you want to meet with me come to the garden with your shovel so we can plant some shit.”
Over the past year it has become increasingly important for me to become more aware of how what I eat makes me feel; how my body responds to, and is affected by what I consume. In preparation for my very favorite holiday of the year, a day of feasting and all-around thankfulness, I hope you’ll join me in taking time to connect with food and really and truly think about and begin to understand our relationship with what is not just meant to sustain us, but more profoundly what is meant to nourish us every day.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”
With California recently voting against the labeling of GMOs one of the most disheartening revelations was that some of the country’s most “health-conscious” brands donated funds against the initiative that would give us the right to know what we are consuming. Brands like Kashi, Muir Glen Organics, Silk soy milk, Naked juice, and Larabar all fought to keep genetically modified labeling off their packaging. Regardless of any flaws the initiative may have held, it was the beginning of an important discussion; something every foodie in America should be a part of. (GMO labeling is already mandatory in the European Union, Russia, and Japan.)
So I suppose what I am asking of you, in preparation for this day of food, is to take that pause during your meal not just for the obligatory thankfulness for an epic spread, but to deeply see that it matters how we place value on our relationship with food and it matters what we choose to feed our families.
Quick and easy berry soda
I’ve been going berry crazy at the farmer’s market the past few weekends, but with our extra warm weather they barely last the ride home. I needed a quick and dirty way to enjoy them after they were slightly past their prime– and by that I mean the very next day. You could boil them down, make a syrup, strain it, blah, blah, but I like the big bits of fresh berries and seeds. If you’re really not into the seeds you could strain them I suppose, but this really is a one jar kinda deal.
The touch of rose water adds a lightly fragrant note to the berries, but be careful not to add too much! Just a few drops is perfect. It’s worth having as a pantry staple, but if you don’t have it don’t worry, it’s not necessary.
1. All you’ll need: ice, berries, honey, rose water, soda water
2. Add the berries, spoonful of honey, and a few drops of rose water to a mason jar
3. Muddle, add the ice and soda water. Sip.
Hooray for summer! And hooray for getaways, holidays, and vacations! Obviously still riding high from my week away, and another little getaway this week up to Port Townsend and Lummi Island, I was feeling so good I barely even blinked when dealing with an irrational customer the other day. A true testament to the power of holidays. But also perhaps a sign that I’m starting to accept that people are crazy…and those are the ones that are predisposed to having Yelp accounts. Seriously.
Regardless though, life is good. Like, really, really good. Happy weekend to you my friends. Kiss!
Our cucumber, tomato salad. We’ve been living off this salad, and as long as we can keep getting the Japanese cucumbers (hidden in the bottom) we’ll continue to make it. Another no-recipe, recipe: sliced cucumbers, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced spring onion, minced parsley and mint. Drizzle olive oil, red wine vinegar. Salt, pepper to taste. Crumbled Israeli feta. Toss. Eat. (The feta mixes into the dressing in the best possible way to make it oh so creamy. You’ve got to try it!)
A ginger fizz with pineapple weed. Not a gin girl in the least, but a sip from my guy’s cocktail at The Willows restaurant this week might have converted me. Frothy and smooth with a light herbal punch from the gin, and a hint of citrus/pineapple aroma from the weed.
Dinette’s awesome ice cream cookie sandwiches. Housemade cookies and ice cream in combinations like gingersnap with earl grey, or chocolate with salted peanut butter. The best I’ve ever had. (Their summer sandwich menu is also to die for!)
My honey inventory (for now at least)
If you’re getting your honey out of a container that resembles a bear you’re missing out on what honey really and truly is. After a brief stint experimenting with the god-awful Tasmanian honey I vowed to support my local apiary’s raw organic honey.
Honey is all the best parts of the season in a jar: whatever pollens the bee’s have collected are what is going to flavor the honey. It’s miraculous, natural process that we’ve completely lost touch with. If you’re fortunate enough to find an apiarist that pulls honey from the hives in the spring you’ll find the only pollens that bees have collected are from spring’s first flowers. It’s the most soft, silky, and fragrant honey you’ll ever have. And if you buy this past spring’s honey and save it for next year you can take a spoonful each day to work as a natural anti-histamine. Awesome, right?!
As the season progresses the honey flavors and consistency change. From the first spring honey we moved into apple blossoms, and soon to come are raspberry, then blackberry. We have our weekly trips to the honey stand planned for the next few weeks to add to our collection so far this year.
Aside from allergy relief, honey is pretty much the only sweetener I use. Try switching and you’ll taste and feel the difference, as you’re literally eating from the flowers of the land around you. Truly a small but important way to feel “connected”.
Colony Collapse Disorder is still a threat for bee colonies, so be sure to talk to your apiarist about where the bees are collecting. If you’re curious to learn more about colony collapse disorder read about how genetically modified corn (containing pesticides from Bayer) are contributing to the decline of the bees.
(Posting from my phone on the road/ferry today. Pardon the errors…more errors than usual at least.)
This is purslane. It is my absolute favorite summer staple from the farmer’s market. I crave it. I keep it in a vase so I can pick sprigs to snack on all day.
Until this season I had never heard of it, but thanks to my wonderful guy I am now an addict. We ran out last night and I think I was experiencing withdrawals. (It does contain dopamine, afterall.) But it also contains a ton of other really good stuff, like for example, more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy green. Pretty bad ass.
Common in Europe, the Mediterranean, and throughout the middle east and Asia, purslane has been a culinary and medicinal staple for centuries. While it is a gorgeous summer treat, it’s popularity is also likely due to the fact that it is so resilient. In areas of low water it can switch to a different method of photosynthesis that traps carbon dioxide and ultimately converts it into nutrients. (Read more about it here.)
As far as taste and texture, it somehow manages to be sturdy and delicate with both its crisp stem and tender leaves. It’s a succulent that you eat, but think of it as the texture of a sprout with a slight lemon taste that’s more like an herb…but not strong or overpowering at all.
I love it as a salad, in place of lettuce on a sammie, sprinkled on a pizza (with some olive oil), or sauteed as if it were spinach. It’s just so versatile.
When was the last time you really and truly tried something new? Here’s a simple recipe that showcases the purslane with some other great seasonal vegetables we have now. This is what we are meant to be eating this time of year. Give it a go!
Purslane Summer Salad
- 1 bunch organic purslane (can use the entire stem, just remove the roots if still attached)
- 1 japanese cucumber, thick dice
- 1 spring onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp brown rice vinegar
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- small dash nama shoyu (tamari, or soy sauce will work too)
- 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
- pinch of salt
- white pepper
- gomasio (white and black sesame seeds)
Add the purslane, diced cucumber, and onion slices to a bowl. Lightly toss with the vinegars, nama shoyu, and olive oil until everything is evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste and lightly toss again. Garnish with the gomasio and serve.
Nama Shoyu is unpasteurized or “raw” soy sauce. Though it is heated above the raw max of 115-degrees, the presence of living enzymes is still present after fermentation.
Gomasio is a blend of unhulled, toasted sesame seeds and varying proportions of salt. Be sure to taste the saltiness of your mix and adjust the seasoning as needed.
Mixing vinegars is a great way to add that secret depth of flavor. Don’t fret about the brown rice vinegar if you don’t have it. You can substitute white rice vinegar here if that’s what you have on hand.
Have you ever had lettuce in your soup? You might think it’s weird, but I promise it is so worth a try. Naturally the texture is more delicate than spinach or kale, so when it’s swimming in a piping hot broth it becomes very tender with a flavor is light and clean.
There are some beautiful varieties of local lettuces appearing at the farmer’s markets, so now is the perfect time to experiment. We used a gorgeous variety called galisse; an heirloom similar to a butter lettuce. Either variety would work perfectly, and in case you’re wondering, the key to avoiding a big soggy bite is to cut the leaves into small ribbons and add to a light broth just before serving.
For the record, this is my guy’s creation and we’ve also been referring to it as Garbage Soup – but only because the broth is made completely of scraps that would usually be thrown in the trash. Also, this version is pretty much comprised of remnants from other dishes, so the potatoes, peas, croutons, and cheese were all remainders hiding in the fridge. In that sense it’s not a recipe as much as it is (hopefully) inspiration to repurpose scraps and leftovers into a whole new dish. As it is here though, it’s worth buying ingredients for because it is so fragrant and clean, with a perfect mix of textures and some decadent bits. It really is like a bowl of Seattle spring/summer.
Spring/summer because we never know which is which, or when one officially starts. Here’s our take on
Garbage Lettuce Soup!
A quick broth made from the scraps of English peas (strings removed for their bitter factor), a few tops and tails of spring onions and chive strings. Add water, bring to a boil then simmer lightly for about 45 minutes. Strain, season to taste with salt.
Slice a boiled Yukon Gold potato and line the bottom of a bowl. Makes for a hidden buttery surprise.
Cover the potatoes with the sliced lettuce, fresh peas (from the shells simmering in the broth), salt, and pepper.
Ladle the seasoned broth over the veggies.
Top with toasted croutons.
Grate pecorino or parmesan over the top and add a light drizzle of olive oil.
Black Cap Raspberries
Hello sweet thang. I’m a Black Cap raspberry. I’m kind of a big deal. Well, you know…some varieties of berries are considered invasive to Washington state, but I’m actually, ahem, a native variety. Oh yeah. I’m wild.
I’m considered an heirloom variety, but you can just think of me as free from genetic altering. This pretty much means that with me you’re guaranteed maximum nutrient and antioxidant potency. Yeah that’s right, I just said potency. Come to the dark side and enjoy the taste of blueberries mixed with blackberries. Seriously, I taste gooood. Catch you at the University Farmer’s Market next Saturday? Alriiiight.