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Friday, March 27, 2009

Gingered Rhubarb and Pear Crisp

Oh how I love this dessert! Ginger and rhubarb are an amazing combination! Hooray for spring! Serve this with a dollop of farm-fresh vanilla whipped cream.

Serves 8

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced, plus extra for greasing
1½ pounds rhubarb (trimmed weight)
1½ pounds peeled and chopped pears
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons crystallized ginger
½-¾ cup Rapadura or sugar (depending on how sweet you like your dessert)
2 tablespoons flour

For topping:
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup hazelnut meal
½ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
½ cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350ºF and lightly grease eight 6-ounce ramekins. Cut rhubarb into 1” lengths and place in saucepan with pears, fresh and crystallized ginger, Rapadura and flour. Cover and cook gently over low heat for 6 to 10 minutes until rhubarb is just softened, but still holding its shape. Transfer to prepared ramekins.

Place oats, hazelnut meal, hazelnuts, flour, and ground ginger in bowl and stir well until combined. Mix in maple syrup, then add butter and rub into mixture to form a rough crumbly mixture. Spoon over rhubarb in ramekins and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until bubbling and golden. Serve while still warm.

Asparagus, Pea, Radish, and Scallion Salad with Ginger-Miso Dressing

I rinse off the peas, but don't cut off the tips or cut them into the size until after I blanch and shock them. I have found that if I remove the tips first, that the pods fill with water while they’re blanch, making the salad watery. Be sure to have a pot or sink full of cold water before you start blanching--you want to stop the cooking immediately or you'll wind up with mushy peas. (And nobody wants mushy peas in salad!)

The secret to this dressing is the orange marmalade. Many ginger-miso salad dressing recipes call for sugar and I wanted to try making it without the sugar. It’s a divine marriage of flavors.

Serves 4

2 cups (8 ounces) snow peas or sugar snap peas or a mix, trimmed
1 cup asparagus tips
2 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
4 radishes, trimmed and cut into thin strips (about 1/2 cup)
¼ cup black sesame seeds

For dressing:
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoon sesame seed oil
3 tablespoons white miso
1 teaspoon tamari
1-2 teaspoon ginger
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
2 tablespoons water

Bring two quarts water to boil. Blanch peas for 1 minute, submerge in cold water to stop cooking, and drain. Cut the snow peas on the diagonal into ½-inch diamond shapes, discarding the end pieces. In a medium serving bowl, combine the peas, scallions, radishes, and sesame seeds. Put all dressing ingredients in a jar and shake to combine. Pour dressing and sesame seeds over the salad. Toss and serve immediately.

No-Crust Quiche with Wild Mushrooms & Nettles

This is an easy and versatile egg dish that my family enjoys throughout the year. As the seasons change, I use different green vegetables, cheeses, and meats (or no meat). Kale, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, zucchini, and green beans all work well. Depending on the vegetable, I use cheddar, chevre, parmesan, or mozzarella with bacon, prosciutto, or corned beef. My favorite combination is with my husband's smoked salmon, my homemade cream cheese, and fresh asparagus from our garden. The first asparagus tips have began to emerge this week, so it won't be long 'til we're enjoying that one again!

Serves 8

1 pound waxy potatoes, such German Butterball or Yukon Gold
¼ pound thinly sliced ham
9 eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped wild mushrooms
½ pound stinging nettles
3-4 ounces fontina cheese, cubed

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Butter 10” quiche pan. Blanch nettles in pot of boiling salted water for 1-2 minutes, until bright green and softened. Drain in colander and let cool. Slice potatoes into thin rounds and layer rounds in the bottom of pan. Lay ham on top of potatoes. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, milk, salt, and pepper together. Squeeze excess liquid from nettles, remove any woody stems, and then roughly chop. Mix chopped nettles into eggs, then pour egg mixture into quiche pan. Drop of cubes of cheese on top of eggs. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until eggs are set.

Olive Oil Crackers

I adapted this from a recipe at one of my favorite blogs, Super Natural Cooking author Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks. If you try her original recipe note the teaspoon of salt really ought to be a tablespoon (believe me, we tried it with just a teaspoon and they were not good). The semolina flour gives these crackers a somewhat gritty texture that you may like. If you don't, try using another flour, like amaranth, which would add a nice nutty flavor.

Makes 60 or so 2" square crackers

1 1/2 cups semolina flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 tablespoon fine-grain sea salt
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a food processor, mixer with a dough hook, or bowl, mix together the flours and salt. Add the water and olive oil. Process or mix until the dough comes to together in a ball--just a minute or two in the food processor, or 3 to 5 minutes in a mixer, and a little longer by hand. The dough should be just a bit tacky - but not stick to your hands when you work with it. If you need to add a bit more water (or flour) do so.

When you are done mixing, shape the dough into a large ball. Cover with a clean dishtowel or put in a covered bowl and let rest at room temperature for 30 - 60 minutes.

While the dough is resting, preheat your oven to 450F degrees. Insert a pizza stone if you have one.

Cut the dough ball in half. Using a rolling pin, shape into a roughly rectangular piece of dough a scant 1/8" thick--the thinner dough, the crisper the cracker. Move dough onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and cut it into cracker-size squares (or whatever shapes you desire!) using a pizza cutter. Poke each cracker with the tines of a fork to prevent puffing, add any extra toppings, and slide into the oven. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Bake until deeply golden--they will taste like raw flour if undercooked. They will become more crisp as they cool. Repeat the process for the remaining dough. Store cooled crackers in an airtight container for a couple days.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lacto-fermented Russian Dressing

1/3 cup lacto-fermented mayonnaise
1-1/2 tablespoons lacto-fermented ketchup
1-1/2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1/2 teaspoon tamari
sea salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients. Enjoy!

What Cheap, Industrial Food Let Us Forget

On Thursday last week, I attended the Food Alliance Sustainable Food Industry Forum and Gala along with a few hundred other regional food producers, processors, and others passionate about making sustainable eating a way of life accessible to all. After an afternoon of hearing what the general public thinks about the term “sustainable” and discussing sustainable sushi with the founders of Bamboo Sushi here in Portland, I sat at a table of Country Natural Beef ranchers from eastern Oregon and southern Idaho for a delicious dinner highlighting seasonal foods from our region. After dinner, Paul Roberts author of The End of Oil and more recently, The End of Food, started out his keynote address by asking, “How self-sufficient should we be?”

He went on to briefly outline the now well-known history of the rise of industrial agriculture, but in a twist not often mentioned, he cited the farming know-how that was lost with the rise of monoculture. One hundred years ago, farms is Iowa and Oregon looked much the same, with a mix of row crops, field crops, and livestock. Farmers were “integrated systems specialists,” who knew how to conduct the orchestra of plants, animals, soil, water, and sunlight that made up the 19th century family farm. Today, farmers in Iowa specialize in growing corn, soybeans, and little else. While many of us know of many farms in Oregon full of variety, here too we have vast grass farms, single-fruit orchards, and feedlots. With that specialization and dependence on cheap oil for machinery, fertilizers, pesticides, and transport, farmers have lost the knowledge necessary to manage the diversity essential to maintaining truly healthy, vibrant farms.

According to Roberts, ordinary citizens (aka consumers) have also lost once knowledge thanks to their dependence on processed foods made possible by cheap, abundant oil. As an answer to his question about how self-sufficient we should be, he argued that along with supporting smaller scale, diversified farms, he said, we all need to learn how to prepare food at home again. Know anyone who’s helping people with that? As he spoke, the group of ranchers I’d gotten to know over dinner all turned to me and smiled. Validation is a wonderful sensation!

Harvesting Sunlight Organic Gardening Classes

I’m excited to announce that Nita Wilton, of Graf Century Farm and one of my favorite bloggers, has offered to come to Portland to teach gardening classes. This is a great opportunity to learn from someone with decades of experience growing food. She will be teaching two classes in the next few weeks, one for spring and summer garden prep, another for harvesting and winter garden planning. Sign up soon as space is limited!

Harvesting Sunlight I, March 28 at 3pm
Find out which varieties of vegetables and small fruits to plant to round out your CSA share and where to buy the best seeds and plants. Observe how to start your own transplants and direct sow in the garden. Discuss soil preparation and compost, avoiding common garden pests by changing your eating habits, and controlling pests organically.

Harvesting Sunlight II, April 11 at 3pm
Learn how to fit the winter garden fit in with your spring and summer garden plans. Understand which varieties work well in our climate and why. Discuss of age-old gardening methods that reduce the need for watering and fertilizing. Learn how to rotate crops, save seeds, then harvest and store your crops.

About Nita
Nita Wilton farms and gardens on her family’s Century Farm which is nestled in the Cascade foothills near the Columbia River Gorge. A desire to preserve the history of her local foodshed has led her to devise ways to avoid the supermarket by growing almost all her family’s food, using a blend of old and new techniques. Read more about her farming and gardening efforts at her personal blog Throwback at Trapper Creek, or where she writes collaboratively at Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op or Not Dabbling in Normal.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lost Arts Kitchen Hits the Road

So, I have a few classes and demonstrations coming up in town and in the country. Have a look-see:
  • Cooking demonstration and talk on eating local for the residents of South Waterfront on Thursday, March 26 at 6pm.
  • Lacto-fermentation class at TrackersNW, our family's favorite outdoor ed organization and school of real life, on Saturday, March 28 at 10am.
  • Eggs? Eggs! Eggs!?! class at beautiful, biodynamic Friendly Haven Rise Farm on Saturday, April 4 at 3pm.