Ooh, my favorite!


How to build a better salad
July 16, 2013, 11:56 am
Filed under: Farmer's Market, Food, Health, Organic, Recipes

cherry-mizuna

We are salad people. And while I’ve always craved for seasonal leafy greens I have never met anyone that can build a salad quite like Andrew. He often laughs about his time in the kitchen, preferring to work the garde manger station while others fought for the grill. The truth is that properly seasoning fresh ingredients is an art that many restaurants chefs haven’t even mastered. We all know the horrors of an over-dressed, soggy salad. (If you’re looking for a proper salad in Seattle, Matt Dillon is the master.)

Salads are compositions and are a complex form of cookery. Using what’s fresh and available, assessing how sturdy the ingredients are to inform your seasoning, and honing your sense of touch are all important elements to salad-making and are so much more rewarding than opening a bottle and pouring. If you’re bored of your salad routine and hoping to elevate your technique here are some tips to help you compose a salad like a true artist, and a recipe to help you practice.

Try a new leaf

We are all about Mizuna this season. It’s like everything you wish frisee actually was, but we all know that it just isn’t. Mizuna is a Japanese mustard green with a slight peppery taste and small, narrow serrated leaves. For as sturdy as the leaves are (they’re also great sauteed) they make for a really delicate salad.

There’s also my other fave, purslane that is also in season right now.

Soap box: Salad greens should never come from a bag or a box, especially this time of year. I’ll share my tips for washing produce very soon.

Use your sense of touch

No tablespoon measurements or emulsifying. Here we’re going to drizzle and use our hands to feel how we season. Start with a light drizzle of olive oil to coat the leaves, and use your thumb or finger to regulate how the oil is dispersed. Then move on to the acid and salt. (This bit of info was new to me. I never knew you started with the olive oil!)

* assess the greens: How sturdy are they? How much oil, salt, tossing can they take?

Toss with a delicate hand

Use just the very tips of your fingertips to toss to keep the lettuce light and airy. Collect only a few sprigs at a time…like 1/4 of a handful and let the leaves fall through your fingers. Just as the ingredients are coated use the bowl to toss once more and maintain the height of the leaves.

Make two different salads, then combine

This is key! Build flavors by making two components of the salad that are seasoned differently. Essentially all you’re doing is using two different vinegars. It’s magical and your taste buds will freak.

Use separate bowls

Each component should have its own bowl. This will help you stay organized, save time, and will also serve as a tossing implement. We love our stainless steel guys.

cherrymizuna2

Mizuna salad with Summit Cherries and Blackcap Raspberries

We came up with this salad based on what we had on-hand after a farmer’s market haul last week. Don’t feel restricted by a recipe, use what you have and don’t be afraid to try different pairings. In this, the savory chives with the sweet fruit and vinegar are unexpected but so, so good.

For the Mizuna:

–  Mizuna leaves, ends trimmed

–  feta cheese, crumbled

–  chive blossom vinegar (or other savory version)

–  olive oil

–  salt

–  pepper

Lightly drizzle the olive oil and gently toss to coat the leaves. Once the leaves are  coated drizzle a small amount of chive blossom vinegar, feta, salt, and pepper. Toss gently once more with your hands and then by tossing the bowl. Set aside.

For the cherries and raspberries:

–  5-6 cherries, pitted and halved

–  small handful blackcap raspberries

–  4 sprigs chives, finely minced

–  sherry vinegar (or other sweet version)

–  olive oil

–  salt

Lightly drizzle the cherries, raspberries, and chives with olive oil. The berries are fragile, so very few and delicate touches are important. Gently sprinkle the vinegar, and salt.

Plate by gently placing the cherries and berries around the plate. They’re heavy so we want them beneath the Mizuna. No arranging! Just let things fall as they may. Then gently pile the Mizuna on top. To keep height let the greens fall through your fingers as you transfer them from the plate. Scrape out any remaining pieces of feta and oil. Drizzle with the tiniest bit olive oil before serving.

Bon appetite!!

 



Head in the sand
July 8, 2013, 12:07 pm
Filed under: Compassion, Farmer's Market, Food, Green, Health

movies
Most nights after, mornings before, and days away from work I have a habit of turning on the TV and finding something completely mindless to watch on Instant Netflix. I don’t want to think because the way I feel I swear it would cause some sort of brain injury. I just want to melt into the couch and watch any given episode of Family Guy for the millionth time.

But, alas, one can only disconnect for so long, and I soon became aware of how empty and uninspiring that habit was making me feel. For the past few months I’ve changed up my routine and I’ve come across some really interesting documentaries that are streaming on Instant now. I’ll admit that I’m not always in the mood to watch a super-intense, angry-making, political-injustice type movie…I just take them so personally and its effects can be hard on me. But when I do find the time and the energy to watch them I always appreciate how my perspective shifts and the decisions I make are that much more informed. Here’s to not being an ostrich!

Queen of the Sun

I desperately want to add bees to our little farm, and as much as I’ve tried to make it work we just don’t have the room next to the chickens. This documentary from 2011 is beautiful and insightful. (I just wish the cover wasn’t so creepy.) With our beloved honey bees at the center of the story there’s also some really great profiles on some forward-thinking (and some wonderfully eccentric) apiarists and permaculture farmers, discussions on the dangers of monocrop culture and pesticide use, and a really interesting segment on commercial bees and the breeding of Queen’s. Complex and I can’t lie, very emotional it’s the type of movie that will change the way you think of bees, swarms, and farming.

The Happy Movie

A glimpse of people and cultures around the world in an attempt to identify what makes us happy. Positive psychology is a real thing and it’s pretty cool. After I saw how a rickshaw runner lives in India, or how a once beautiful woman found happiness after a terrible accident it helped me reevaluate my knee-jerk reactions to the petty injustices of the day. I often need reminding so I have watched this a few times. The story of the people of Okinawa, the highest concentration of the oldest living people on the planet, was particularly inspiring.

Hungry for Change

I have watched this documentary several times, and it’s usually when I need that little kick in the ass to get things back on track with my health and diet. There’s suddenly been a lot of talk on the addictive nature of refined sugar and flour and this will help explain how and why it’s so hard for us to step back. There’s also a ton of great information on natural health and beauty which is one of my very favorite topics. Heal your body from the inside!

HOT COFFEE

EVERYONE knows the story of the hot coffee incident from McDonald’s in the 80’s, but I guarantee that you don’t know the REAL story. It’s heartbreaking and so much more complex than any of us ever knew. This story and many more will change the way you think about “frivolous lawsuits” in our country and the effects of tort reform. It’s a very interesting look at how the hot coffee incident was exploited to ultimately protect corporations and change our justice system at the expense of the average citizen.



Summertime Pasta
July 2, 2013, 11:05 am
Filed under: Farmer's Market, Food, Organic, Recipes

summerpasta

Even amidst all of the heat yesterday I had a crazy craving for a big bowl of pasta. And after feeling slightly bitter that my appetite was in no way suppressed by the heat I finally gave in and embraced the idea of a belly full of noodles and all the summery produce I could add. Mom saw these first of our northwest season cherry tomatoes at the farmer’s market and got an extra pint for us along with a bunch of the most tender basil and some crisp shelling peas. Let me quickly say that to miss out on fresh peas in the height of pea season is a crime! Save the frozen guys for the dead of winter and focus on shelling faster than you can pop those little suckers. I promise, you will be so happy.

The only piece of this dish that isn’t in-season per se is the lemon for the sauce, but since it’s often a summertime heat wave staple it’s no biggie.

Not oily in the least this dish is instead wonderfully polished with the perfect amount of tang from the lemon, sweetness from the tomatoes, crispness from the peas, and creaminess from the butter and touch of feta. All together the sum of these ingredients, even in pasta form, makes for a light and fragrant dish for even the hottest of days. It travels well too and can even be eaten cold-ish. Just not right out of the fridge.

lemonsauce

Summertime Pasta

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add a generous amount of sea salt. Drop 1 pound organic spaghetti and cook to package directions.

Meanwhile, melt about 2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and 2 Tablespoons of Kerrygold butter* in a sautee pan on medium heat. Add thinly sliced spring onions (white part only for this recipe) and slowly melt them into the butter and olive oil. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and continue to melt the onions. Remove from the heat and add the zest and the juice from one lemon and a few grinds of black pepper. Set aside.

Once the pasta is done transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, season lightly** and quickly toss to coat.

Still working quickly add the lemon sauce. Once the pasta is well coated toss in the fresh cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, shelled peas, and crumbles of Israeli feta***. Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt and pepper if needed.

Some Notes:

* Kerrygold butter is badass and should be used if you can find it.

**The key here, and to any pasta really, is to layer flavors by creating individual pieces that are seasoned and flavorful on their own. Ultimately this means seasoning the noodles before adding any embellishments. It will elevate your pastas and people will notice.

**We have our own little house mix of seasoning that Andrew made (we call it Magic Powder) and we use on anything and everything in the kitchen. Some of the basic ingredients of our mix include white pepper, organic garlic powder, and fine sea salt. Pulse into a fine powder and add to to the noodles…conservatively though. A little goes a long way!

***We love the Israeli feta from Trader Joe’s. It’s less tangy and salty than others, and packs a bit more of a creamy punch.

A few extras:

I will often add a fried or poached egg (I totally did yesterday). Give it a go, it works really well.

Use the lemon sauce as a base sauce and adjust the vegetables as the seasons and produce change.

ingredients



modern farmer mag
June 17, 2013, 1:16 pm
Filed under: Food, Urban Farmer

issue-one-stroke

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, recipesbees 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:

–  How to grow a cocktail with The Drunken Botanist

–  Celebrate bee week

–  What macho herbicide names tell us about fighting weeds

–  The State of the CSA

–  Greek Yogurt’s Dark Side

Check out modern farmer online, or subscribe for the quarterly issues.



Chive Blossom Vinegar
June 10, 2013, 10:37 am
Filed under: Food, Recipes

chivevinegar3

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:

Chive blossoms

Vinegar – champagne or white wine

Jars with lids – I used small canning jars

chivevinegar2Just snip the blossoms at the base of the bud and pile them into a container or two.

chivevinegar4

Fill the containers with vinegar and seal with the lid.

chivevinegar5

Let sit for four to five days then strain out the flowers and use the vinegar in place of your usual. Voila!



Porcini Mac ‘n Cheese
May 15, 2013, 12:42 pm
Filed under: Food, Recipes

macncheese

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.

porcini

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?

macncheese2

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.



Kitchen and Pantry
April 23, 2013, 3:57 pm
Filed under: Clean, Compassion, Farmer's Market, Food, Green, Health, Home

KitchenPantry

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!)

 




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