Around the neighborhood some call me The Chicken Lady. I’ve been called way worse, so I’ll gladly take it. And anyway, I’ve (in some ways surprisingly) found so much joy in raising chickens and harvesting fresh eggs each day that it’s a name I’m proud have. I know what they eat, I know what they do, and I know that they are happy. The garden is also just as rewarding, even if there are some seeds that need replanting and I have so much left to learn. I love watching seeds sprout and grow gradually, judging their progress from the morning to evening, and I love the zen calm of daily waterings. Here too, I know everything about them.
This big evolution in my life, coupled with my deep passion for food and agriculture reform has left me craving for stimulation and conversation about all the issues that connect back to food and farm. My sweet Andrew came to the rescue when he bought me this new magazine, and we’ve been poring over it and the website ever since. Don’t let the cover sway you (even though I totally geeked out over it), it’s a beautiful publication and the content is really sexy and so well done. It’s for anyone who’s interested/concerned/curious about real food culture, global and domestic agriculture, food security issues, gardening, recipes, bees and chickens, agritourism, and much more. There’s a global cultural shift where food and food topics are concerned (the real story, not the Food Network version) and it gives me so much hope and inspiration.
Some of my favorite features:
- Celebrate bee week
- What macho herbicide names tell us about fighting weeds
Check out modern farmer online, or subscribe for the quarterly issues.
You know those pretty blossoms atop the chives in your (or your neighbors) garden? They’re the ones that are typically admired for their pretty lilac color, but often left to wilt and die as if they’re purely ornamental. But wait, they’re not! They are yummy as they are pretty, and if you’re an acid freak like I am, you’ll love adding a delicate taste of chive and onion to use as a finishing vinegar for salads or soups. (The blossoms are also good sprinkled in salads.)
All you need:
Vinegar – champagne or white wine
Jars with lids – I used small canning jars
Just snip the blossoms at the base of the bud and pile them into a container or two.
Fill the containers with vinegar and seal with the lid.
Let sit for four to five days then strain out the flowers and use the vinegar in place of your usual. Voila!
I don’t know how he comes up with this stuff but when mom gave us some dried porcini mushrooms last week Andrew immediately said he wanted to make it into a powder and add it into his mom’s macaroni and cheese recipe. I was stunned at first as I had to process the greatness of this idea, but after the gears got up to speed I knew it would be the perfect way to celebrate Mother’s Day (and Dad’s birthday too). Some say to add cheese to mushrooms is a hack and a cheat, but I can’t help but to disagree, especially with this recipe.
There are a few secret ingredients in here that you won’t be able to taste outright, but they’ll add an insane depth of flavor to the mornay (cheese sauce) that takes this dish into a realm that is like no other macaroni you’ve ever had. Aside from the earthy richness of the Porcini’s there’s a dash of Worcestershire sauce and mustard powder. Again, you won’t necessarily taste them, but you’ll know there’s something special there.
Give it a go, so simple but deceivingly complex. The best kind of dish, no?
Porcini Mac n Cheese
Serves 6-8 as a side (or in our case 4 with lots of leftovers for snacking).
We used 2- 12 ounce packages of macaroni. (Actually, Bionaturae’s Chiocciole “snail” shaped. So many big wells to collect cheesy goodness.) Cook to package directions.
Sautée 1/2 cup finely diced onion in 5 Tbs butter.
Add 1/3 cup flour, blend and cook until incorporated and very lightly browned.
Slowly add 3 cups milk and 1 1/2 cups chicken broth. Whisk well to combine and avoid lumps.
Flavor with 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp dry mustard, 1/4 tsp white pepper.
Add 3 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese and mix well. Cook until thickened slightly and the cheese melts.
Add 2 tsp of dried porcini powder (pulse in a spice grinder or food processor). Mix well.
Add the cooked macaroni to a buttered casserole dish (or two) and pour the cheese sauce over the noodles. There may be extra sauce so don’t use it all if you’re worried it’s too much. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup grated Parmesan.
Bake in a 350-degree oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the top is slightly browned and the sauce is bubbling.
Enjoy! But avoid temptation and let it cool slightly before snacking.
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!)
My favorite breakfast…lately at least. I have been loving the sweet and savory tastes of this mix and I owe it all to the inspired snack I had from Kylan at the Pioneer Square Pantry tasting party a few months back. (Production is limited so homemade granola is the next best thing.) Here’s my take:
[Sheep milk] yogurt +[homemade] granola + drizzle of [local] honey + drizzle of [arbequina] olive oil + pinch of [black] sea salt.
The addition of the olive oil and the sea salt is genius! It’s the perfect balance with the tangy yogurt and the sweet crunch of the granola. I’ve added the type of ingredients I’ve used above [in the brackets] but you should use whatever your favorite ingredients are. Just be sure you use a killer granola and have a nice finishing olive oil and a chunky and crystally sea salt. Below are links to my faves.
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.”
Last fall Andrew was invited up to Lummi Island for a little getaway at The Willows Inn. I’ve written about my love affair with the island and the restaurant before, so I was desperate to find a way to cleverly
blackmail work my way into the trip. The Fish, Forage, Farm event is a hands-on excurision driven by guest participation, with each of the activities and the menus all focusing back to the island, restaurant, staff, history. So two nights of great food, happy company, and quiet island life was sure to be nothing short of epic, even in the midst of a Pacific Northwest autumn.
Of course I worked my way in and have been waiting forever to share the full experience with you. I wanted to wait until after they reopened (they’re on sabbatical for January and February), and since they open this Thursday I figure I’ve waited long enough.
There was more food and fun than I could even begin to share, so below is a little glimpse into a weekend away at The Willows:
Our hosts for the two days were Chef Ben, and Nettles farm maven Jennifer. There were five others that joined in, and we were all welcomed in front of a cozy fire at The Inn. A beautiful set-up of freshly baked breads and pressed apple cider (spiked with Buffalo Trace bourbon!) were there to help us settle in as we made introductions and talked about ‘the agenda’ for the days ahead. And when I say agenda, let me just say that at one point Ben made sure to mention that if ever there came a point where one felt that they needed a nap…that they should do just that. (Some kind of agenda, no?) We also each received a sweet little welcome kit with a small notebook and pencil for notes, and a pair of Japanese herb scissors.
We soon made our way to Nettles Farm, just up the hill from The Inn, and Jennifer gave us a great little tour before putting us to work in the hoop house. And by work I mean she had the seven of us plant two rows of napa cabbage sprouts, harvest some kohlrabi for lunch the next day, and collect eggs. Yeah, it was rough. It was fun to know that in just a few short weeks those cabbage sprouts would grow to be used by Chef Blaine and his team, but my very favorite part of the time on the farm was spending time with Jennifer and hearing her fun stories about cultivating the farm, learning about the different varieties of each plant, and her overall enthusiasm for eating seasonally.
And then came lunch….
After “working” on the farm it was time to gather in the farmhouse for lunch, and since it was the first meal we’d enjoy with one another there was much to be learned and shared. Of course, the seemingly endless supply of white wine helped us all ease into conversation mode. But everyone was beyond lovely, and ultimately we were all there because good food, and being connected to it was in some way or another, important to all of us. The creamy potato soup, flat bread, and wine were all unbelievable.
Dinner that night was some sort of amazing roasted duck, hay smoked celery root, kale caesar salad with chicken crackling, and beets roasted in bread, but of course all of the dinner meal pictures are too dark to share, and I just hate to post anything that doesn’t (even in the smallest way) attempt to convey how gorgeous each dish/meal was. So, let us move on to breakfast…
For nightly accommodations we were all split between two seaside guest houses, so each meal would switch between the houses. The first breakfast was at the house across the way and was a tasty mixed grain porridge, macerated berries, and gravlax from reef net caught salmon. How often does one get to wake to a perfectly made breakfast from an amazing chef? Not often enough. It was the perfect start before a relaxing autumn walk through the Otto Preserve, and a lesson on reef netting from Jerry.
Jerry is a badass reef net expert that has lived and fished the waters around Lummi for years, and I just loved listening to his stories and looking through his old photos. Since my very first meal on Lummi I’ve been fascinated by reef netting which is a historical method that allows for a more humane and sustainable way to catch the salmon. It ultimately allows the fisherman to select the best catches and set free those that don’t meet culinary standards with minimal shock. The pontoons you see above are rolled out into the bay and each platform/tower has a fisherman with a corner of the net. They trap the salmon and pull uniformly to raise the catch.
After a fun morning outside and a great chat with Jerry I love so much that Ben had some
nap time free time for us, because after that it would be time for the most perfect lunch ever.
Ben as a chef: his attention to detail, effortless skill, and passion for good food was infectious and exhilarating. Ben as a host: was more like a friend, generously sharing his knowledge, excellence, and love for the island with all of us. Ben is my favorite.
We were also really lucky to have his friend Brandon visiting from Toronto. It was great fun to see two gifted chefs and friends working together and the result was in this meal — one of my all-time favorite dining experiences. Crab salad (cleaned by two of our wonderful new friends in the group), fried smelt, freshly baked focaccia, horseradish creme, seaweed kohlrabi salad, and lots of bubbly.
Our final nights dinner was another amazing feast of lamb, fresh oysters, charred cabbage, and pickeld shallots. There was also a guest appearance from our favorite bartender from The Willows, Emily, and she made her signature gin fizz with some of the eggs we’d harvested the day before!
It was hard to prepare to leave the next morning, but we had a lovely farewell breakfast at The Willows and received a sweet farewell note and gift from Ben and Jennifer. The eggs we’d harvested were ready for us in a sweet little basket. Those little and meaningful little touches add up to so much.
Just like a meal at The Willows Inn, the two-day escape for Fish, Forage, and Farm is the treat of a lifetime. The relaxing pace and soul-stirring meals with new friends was exceptional and memorable. And with genuine and wonderfully gifted hosts like Jennifer and Ben, the tone was set for a meaningful experience with a rare opportunity to connect with and understand the food that’s available at that time and place. It’s a powerful feeling.
The spring season will be the perfect time to join in, and the “agendas” will differ with each session and season, so if you’re interested give them a call or check their site for upcoming dates. I would do it again in an instant, and would also like to wrangle some friends to come along too.
The Willows Inn | Lummi Island, WA | (360) 758-2620
So dangerously poppable, these wonderful cheesy puffs are officially cocktail party approved. Two successful test batches in and we’re hooked. I mean, really. Who’s not going to love a homemade puff of cheese. One bite. Savor. Two bite. Gone.
The Pâte à Choux pastry dough is really sticky, so we tried two methods to form the puffs: quenelles and piping. With the first batch using the quenelle method we found it harder to control the size of the puffs, and it seemed like a lot of unnecessary work. The second batch with the piping bag was much easier and faster. Go the piping route! And if you’re out a pastry bag just snip the corner of a plastic storage bag.
We liked topping each puff with a touch of sea salt and parmesan to vary the tastes a bit. The sea salt was an essential addition, but if you prefer to stick with one cheese, for the ease of things, you can always top with some of the Gruyère. Oh, and in a strange twist, I prefer these guys cooled a bit. There’s definitely something sexy about the cloud of steam one gets from a fresh-from-the-oven bite, but all of the cheesy, chivey goodness is best tasted after they’ve cooled slightly.
Perfect for partying in every way.
Gougère French cheese puffs
Yields about 30 small bites
1/2 cup water
3 Tbs butter
1/4 tsp sea salt, plus more as a topper
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch black pepper
1/2 cup flour
2 organic eggs
1/4 cup minced chives
3/4 cup shredded Gruyère cheese (plus more for topping)
Optional: 2 Tbs grated parmesan
Prepare (shred, chop, measure) all of the ingredients before you get started. Preheat the oven to 475-degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat mat.
In a medium saucepan add the butter, water, salt, cayenne, and black pepper. When the butter has melted add the flour and mix quickly until the dough begins to pull away from the sides. Remove from the heat and transfer to a stand mixer or bowl and let cool before the eggs are added, about two minutes will do.
Add the eggs one at a time and mix thoroughly and quickly. It may seem lumpy at times but continue to stir until just incorporated. Add the Gruyère and chives, mix well.
Transfer the dough to a pastry bag and pipe small mounds about the size of a small truffle. Space evenly and allow them room to puff. If there are any peaks gently press them down while topping each puff with grated parmesan (or Gruyère) and a touch of sea salt.
Pop the baking sheet in the oven and cook for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375-degrees and let bake for another 20 minutes. They should be a lovely golden color and have a crisp bite at the outset. The inside should be eggy and cheesy, but still quite light.
We’ve been having lots of fun playing with popcorn lately and there are so many fun twists that I can’t wait to share, but I figured I’d start off simply with an heirloom popping corn done right on the stove.
If you’ve never popped popcorn on the stove top I swear in some weird way it’s easier than in a microwave where I always managed to under-pop or walk away and completely singe the entire bag. With the stove, the quality of the popped kernels is much better and you have so many choices in the variety of corn that you want to use. Heirloom varieties are not genetically modified (they don’t contain Round-up!) so the character, taste, and texture of the corn is richer and tastier.
Everyone has one of those tall stock pots with a lid tucked away somewhere; ours has become our popcorn pot. You’ll want a tall pot so a large amount of steam can collect.
1. Place the pot on medium-high heat and add two tablespoons of oil. We switch between bacon fat, duck fat, or coconut oil.
2. Throw in 3-4 kernals while the oil is melting. Once those guys pop the oil has reached the right temp.
3. Add 1/2 cup of popcorn and cover.
4. Swirl the pot over the heat and listen to how the corn is popping.
5. Once the popping stops wait a second or two longer, remove from the heat, and open the lid to let the steam escape.
6. Serve with your favorite salt.
The brand we’ve been using is India Tree (a Seattle-based company!), and their Paloma Blanca is heavenly…even described as “little doves” (palomitos) on the package. Available online or on the gourmet food aisle at many grocery stores. While the Blanca is our favorite, the other varieties are great too.
It is freakin’ cold here. The days are clear and dry; words that don’t often describe Seattle weather, but without our usual thick blanket of grey-gloomy cloud cover there’s nothing to hold in even the slightest bit of warmth. I love seeing bits of frost on the ground each day (not to mention the sun!), but until it actually snows I’ll continue wish it into existence and feast on oh-so decadent, stick-to-your-ribs kind of dishes like this guy here: a proper dish of spaghetti alla carbonara.
The key here is not to skimp–not to be afraid to use the rendered bacon fat, and not to be shy about the salt, pepper, or parmesan. It’s not a traditional addition, in fact many Italians won’t eat it if there’s a speck of anything green, but I like to add chopped fresh parsley to give a bit of freshness and lighten things up…if only just a tad. Regardless, with or without a pinch of greenery this dish is badass.
When cooking the pasta, be sure to use a large pot with about 4-quarts of water. I used to force it into a small pot in order to save time and water, but in order to get the perfect texture and release of starches be sure to use lots of water, and don’t be afraid to salt it. We want to be sure the noodles have their own layer of flavor. And if you’re looking for a good brand of pasta I really like bionaturae’s line of organic pastas. They’re often on sale at Madison Market too.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
1 Tbs olive oil
1/4 lb (about 4 slices) thick cut bacon, sliced
1 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 pound spaghetti
Freshly ground black pepper
Optional: Fresh parsley, chopped
Warm the olive oil in a pan and cook the bacon (sliced into lardons) until crisp. Set aside but be sure to save the rendered fat.
Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once it reaches a boil ladle a few spoonfuls of the water into a bowl to warm it before adding the egg and cheese. Set the bowl aside and add 2 teaspoons of salt to the boiling water and drop the spaghetti. Cook according to the package directions or until tender but firm.
Toss the hot water from the bowl and add eggs, parmesan, and black pepper. Beat well. When the pasta is done drain it and toss immediately in the egg and cheese mixture. Mix well, then add the bacon and rendered fat. Mix again and add more black pepper; taste and add salt and more pepper if needed.