I’m a former advertising art director who’s found a new career as a blogger and food writer. Woo hoo! I’m passionate about writing and design and I love living in Oregon with its combination of urban style and down-home friendliness.
From this map of sugar beets harvested by county in the US, it looks like the entire Willamette Valley is affected (nearly 100% of the sugar beet crop consists of GE plants0. You can check with your county extension department and ask to see its Isolation Pinning Map for more exact information.
Here’s a list of things I didn’t expect when I started a blog:
Yes, garbanzo beans. Flash-frozen green garbanzo beans. Which I had never cooked with before. And now I had a case of them.
I’d seen green garbanzos once before in their husks at a local farmers’ market that features several Hispanic vendors. Fortunately someone had already done the work of de-husking these, making them much more attractive when it came to actually doing something with them. Asking around, I heard they made great hummus and could be used in stir fries, soups and stews.
So when I was stuck (again) for something to make for dinner last night and, ever the optimist, opened the door to the freezer to see if some fairy might have magically left a whole frozen lasagne buried under the bags of parmesan rinds, nuts and bread ends, I saw one of those big green bags staring at me. Since I’d been hankering for some curry, I grabbed it and some rice and tomatoes from the pantry and, within a half hour, had dinner on the table. Talk about side benefits!
Green Garbanzo and Tomato Curry
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 yellow onion quartered and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, quartered and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. coriander
2 c. crushed tomatoes
2 c. green garbanzo beans
Splash fish sauce (optional)
Salt to taste
Heat oil in deep skillet. When it shimmers, add onion and garlic and sauté over medium heat till the onion is transparent. Add the red bell peppers and sauté till tender. Add spices and stir for 30 seconds, then add tomatoes and garbanzo beans. Salt to taste and, if desired, add a splash of fish sauce. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Serve with rice and chutneys (we particularly like Patak brand, especially their Lime Relish).
Yes, the Fish Music, a poem by Richard Brautigan
A trout-colored wind blows through my eyes,
through my fingers,
and I remember how the trout
used to hide from the dinosaurs
when they came to drink at the river.
The trout hid in subways, castles,
and automobiles. They waited patiently for the dinosaurs to go away.
When I was in college I was obsessed with the work of Richard Brautigan, poet and author of “Trout Fishing in America” and “The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster,” though my favorite was an obscure and hysterically funny novel titled “The Hawkline Monster, a Gothic Novel.” Whimsical yet sad, his work gave me the same feeling I had reading Depression era writer William Saroyan.
But since this post is about trout, and to my knowledge William Saroyan never wrote about our swimmy friends, I’ll leave him aside for now. Which brings me to the fish counter at New Seasons where your correspondent was looking for something to make for dinner. The fresh trout was priced at less than $6 a pound and ten bucks would feed all of us, so I bought three.
I had some of the pea shoot pesto left over from our pasta dinner a couple of nights before, as well as snap peas from the garden, so I stuffed the pesto inside the trout and made a risotto with the snap peas and spring onions. While it cooked, Dave grilled the trout on the Weber and we served them on the bed of risotto along with a salad of butter lettuce dressed with lemon olive oil and salt.
Needless to say, it’s one of the best things I’ve made in the last several months. So if you happen to be here for dinner this summer and I bring out the trout and start going on about Richard Brautigan, act surprised, OK?
Last year we kept eight milking Nubian goats, and had 16 baby goat kids during the kidding season. They were the cutest things, and we bottle fed them three times a day for a total of about 16 weeks. Of the 16 kids, only three were girls (of course, since they’re dairy animals, you hope for a larger percentage of girls than boys). We tried keeping the goats on the same pasture with the cows, since they’re all dairy animals and they eat the same grass and hay and alfalfa ration.
The larger cows bullied the goats away from the feeders until they had their fill, and then as soon as the cows turned their backs, the goats all jumped into the feeders and pooped and peed on the feed. The result was that nobody ate and nobody produced much milk. So then we tried keeping the goats on the perimeter of the broiler chickens, separated by portable electronet fencing.
But goats are clever and persistent, and they knew that in the middle of all those broiler chickens was essentially an unlimited supply of open cookie and cereal boxes. They challenged the fencing all day long, every day. Eventually two of the young doelings strangled themselves to death in the fencing, which was hugely saddening to all of us, and led to our difficult decision to sell all the goats and to choose cow milk only rather than both cow and goat milk. The bonus has been that the cows are happier and easier to take care of than ever; and we are now able to have orchards and vegetable gardens, which was never a possibility while we still had the goats.
Our odyssey with Cornish cross meat chickens has been much the same: they are adorable little yellow fluffballs when they arrive as day-old chicks (top photo), and yet they become food. Koorosh and I both learned to work up our nerves until we were finally able to slaughter them ourselves, and then slaughter lots of them by ourselves.
We built a loyal following of customers who loved the chickens we produced, and we built a large barn to house them during Oregon’s cold, wet winters. But the more intimate we became with their habits and health, the less enamored we became of this hybrid breed. The decision to shift our business away from a large volume of Cornish cross chickens has brought a balance of plants and animals to our farm, and a balance of more home and farm life for our family, and one more farm “off the grid” for factory-raised chicks.
And that barn we built for the chickens? Half of it has new life as a dairy barn, and the other half has new life as a wood shop for custom woodworking and window-building. Meanwhile we’re also doing a lot more with cheesemaking classes and other farmcraft classes (check out the Classes and Events page on our website).
A successful farm—any successful small business, really—should continually be changing and growing and re-evaluating itself. We know that we will have lots more intimate connections with endings, and we look forward to many more new beginnings.
A previous post on meatballs began with an ageless ditty. This one starts with more plebeian concerns, in other words, “What’s for dinner?”
Uninspired described it perfectly. It was one of those nights when it was little muggy and sticky (I can hear you Midwesterners snickering, you know) for spring in Oregon, and nothing was sounding particularly tasty in the dinner department.
But I had to go to the store anyway, and I remembered a recipe for chicken meatballs by Pete Wells in the last New York Times Sunday Magazine that looked easy. It would be lighter than beef, and we had most of the rest of the ingredients, though it called for dipping them in lime raita, not so Dave-friendly. Then I recalled that my brother had recently posted a recipe for remoulade sauce that he was touting as better than tartar sauce. So, since I’m always open to putting more mayo in our diets, I thought I’d give it a try.
Oh, and the meatball recipe says it serves four, but it barely covered the three of us for dinner, which included a hearty beet and green salad. (So four babies, maybe, Mr. Wells, but not four hungry adults.) It would also make a great small app for a dinner party, and we may pull it out for the back yard this summer.
Chicken Meatballs with Chives and a Spicy Remoulade
Meatball recipe adapted from Pete Wells of the New York Times. Remoulade from “Fish Without a Doubt” by Rick Moonen and Roy Finamore.
For the remoulade:
1 c. mayonnaise
3 anchovy fillets
2 Tbsp. minced cornichons
1 Tbsp. nonpareil capers
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
6 dashes Tabasco
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley or chervil
2 tsp chopped fresh dill
1 tsp. or more harissa
Coarse salt or freshly ground pepper
For the meatballs:
1/2 c. (about 1 slice) white bread, crust removed
2-4 Tbsp. milk
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 Tbsp. minced chives
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh tarragon, basil and mint, or other mixed herbs
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. seeded and minced fresh serrano chilies or other hot peppers
For the remoulade: Whisk the mayonnaise, anchovies, cornichons, capers, lemon zest and juice, mustard, Tabasco, parsley or chervil, dill, and harissa together in a bowl. Taste, and adjust the harissa for spiciness (I doubled it - KAB), keeping in mind that the heat will develop as the sauce sits. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. The remoulade will keep for at least a week. (I’ll double it next time to have some left over - KAB)
For the meatballs: Cover the bread with as much of the milk as it will absorb. Let it soak while you prep the rest of the ingredients. Squeeze the bread to wring out the milk, then drop it into a mixing bowl. Mash it thoroughly with a fork and add the chicken, chives, herbs, salt, pepper and chilies, if using. Mash and mix it all together with the fork. Wet your hands and roll meatballs, about an inch across, and fry them, turning every few minutes to brown the entire surface, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and serve with the remoulade.
Chicken meatballs photo by Tony Cenicola for The New York Times.
It always seems that just when you think you have everything figured out and under control that nature reminds you otherwise. Earlier this spring, we were milking cows one morning and one was missing. After almost an hour of searching, we found her drowned in our little creek.
The cows have had continuous access to this creek for more than two years and have never had any trouble with it; the water was not particularly high; it’s a very small creek, only six feet wide or so and no deeper than boots for most of its length, but it does have one deep swimming hole in it. Poor thing, if she had found her way a few feet up or downstream, she would’ve been fine.
But finding a pet cow dead is just the beginning: hauling a 900-pound carcass out of a creek is a serious engineering challenge requiring heavy equipment and almost a whole day’s work to remove her body, bring it up the hill, dig a deep hole, and bury her. Thank goodness for good neighbors and their backhoe. We replaced her with a new cow, “Token,” who is just a lovely, lovely, gentle cow. We wouldn’t have met Token if not for the other drowned cow.
We have built two very large greenhouses (top photo) with our own hands: 30 by 144 feet, and 30 by 98 feet, and have had Mother Nature crush them both, first by wind and then by snow. We thought we needed the greenhouses for hay storage and for meat chicken shelters; instead, we replaced the greenhouses with an irrigation system that uses our gray water from the milking parlor and poultry processing plant to irrigate our new 100-tree mixed fruit orchard that we planted this spring. We wouldn’t have the orchard if it weren’t for the end of the greenhouses.
Similarly, some of you may remember our dreadful behemoth first delivery turck, the Snap-On Tool truck. This truck cost $4,000 when we bought it, had only one seat and seatbelt, no heating, no air conditioning, and numerous mechanical problems and failures that cost over $5,000 to repair in the first year and added nothing to its value.
Deciding to retire the dreaded beast and purchase a much nicer and newer Isuzu NPR commercial truck with three seats and seatbelts, heater and air conditioning, and a 14-foot delivery box, felt very scary in October, 2008: nobody was buying cars or trucks then, remember? But the new truck has been wonderfully reliable, and when we filed our taxes we were surprised to find we had been “stimulated” to the tune of being able to write down 50% depreciation the first year for a business vehicle purchase.
That stimulus bonus funded the stainless steel wall remodelling of our poultry processing plant, hopefully opening up the possibility of having it licensed half of the year for poultry processing, and half of the year as a winery for meadmaking: this became a big factor in making our biggest “new beginnings” decision of all: to transition away from Cornish cross chickens.
Top photo by Frederick Joe, The Oregonian.
Fellow blogger Hank Shaw, of the Beard-nominated blog Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook, is one of the most adventurous eaters/cooks I know. Game is his middle name, and if he can kill it he’ll find a way to use everything from head to tail and make it look and sound delicious. Recently he went boar hunting and decided to make his first batch of head cheese. An excerpt follows:
I’d never done this before. After all, who wants to eat something called “head cheese?” But Maximus was not a large boar, and I wanted to to use everything I could — besides, Maximus had impressive tusks, so I want to make a skull mount, and you need to simmer off all the meat to do that.
Let’s start with the head itself. All hog’s heads are not created equal. And I have been fortunate to have the two extremes of the porcine world in my kitchen: Maximus the Wild Boar, and a Mangalitsa pig’s head. Wild boar, especially real Eurasian boar, are generally devoid of fat. Mangalitsas, on the other hand, may be the fattiest pigs in the world.
Note the difference in the back of the head. There is more fat on the back of the head of the Mangalitsa at right than there is in the whole body of the boar at left. This matters, as it will make the coppa di testa from Maximus very, very lean. Which, ironically, is good — all the recipes I read say to remove most of the fat when making brawn. So there you have it: Wild boar make better brawn.
But there’s one problem: Domestic pigs, and especially the snub-nosed Mangalitsas, have short little snouts. Wild boar have extremely long snouts, lined with vicious tusks. You will need a bigger pot than you think.
For the rest of the story, more pictures and a description of how it all turns out, read Wild Boar Testa: Don't call me head cheese.
Chrissie Zaerpoor, farmer, cheesemaker, up-and-coming mead producer and one of the hardest-working women I know, began Kookoolan Farms in Yamhill with her husband Koorosh in order to build a life and a business together that they could be proud of. Here she reflects on what they’ve learned about the cycles of life on the farm.
A bittersweet cycle of beginnings and endings
By Chrissie Manion Zaerpoor
“Living in the country” conjures up such a lovely, pastoral image for most of us: fresh, soft mornings, baby animals, the bounty of harvesting from gardens and orchards, the rhythm of daily and seasonal chores, a slower pace and a deeper connection to community, land and food. And indeed the joys of farming encompass all of these experiences. But yin and yang apply to farming, and the joys come with costs. “A deeper connection” implies a deeper intimacy, to the dark and difficult side as well as to the joyous side. Intimacy comes only with a deeper commitment and connection, and that means not turning away from the aspects that we were most sheltered from when we lived in town.
Our first cow, Pretty Girl, calved easily; she was an Angus, and it was a little bull calf. Neither animal was particularly tame, and we weren’t able to get that close. Several months later, our first dairy cow, Ariba (top photo), calved. Again, it was an easy delivery; it was her fourth calf, and the little female, Shasta, was a beauty. Both mother and baby were very tame. We were in the barn stall when Ariba birthed; we bottle-fed Shasta for weeks.
Later, we had difficult births with our goats. Much smaller animals, the young mothers labored to push out their first babies, and the older animals struggled with multiple births. One doe delivered quintuplets.
These emergencies force new farmers into the role of midwife or obstetrician; let me tell you that a background in physics or engineering does NOT prepare you for veterinary duties. A neighbor, a customer and I worked hard for five hours on a very cold night to untangle and remove the five babies from the goat’s womb; three survived.
Our neighbor, a big friendly Italian named Sal Eramo, came right over when I called. He held up a hand the size of a bear paw next to my slender wrist and said, “I can tell you what to do, but you’re going to have to do this yourself, capiche?”
A year later Sal called and asked for Chrissie’s small arms to help deliver lambs from a ewe who was having trouble.
A box of day-old baby chicks is the cutest thing in the world. A box of baby chicks that was on a cart not properly strapped into the mail service truck containing a dozen or so mashed, bruised and dismembered bodies is not.
Barn cat kittens, born in the chickens’ nest boxes and partially-reared by hens, were the cutest things in the world. Mature cats preying upon a brooder full of day-old chicks as though it were an arcade game at a county fair, was a dreadful massacre to behold.
In fact, chickens open up a whole world of predator-prey relationships that we were blissfully ignorant of in town. We have learned to identify the predator by the calling card it leaves behind: owls peck a hole in the top of the chicken’s skull; skunks eat just the head and gullet; cats eat all the internal organs and sometimes the flesh meats; raccoons drag their prey down to the creek where they can wash it in the water. Coyotes take the whole carcass, whether it’s a chicken or a lamb, and leave not a trace behind.
Learning to identify who’s taking the chickens is crucial for beginning farmers who are just learning how to have the stomach to fight back. As educated liberals who never owned guns before, we had a lot to learn, and had to make significant changes in our own world views. We also learned, as Joel Salatin rightly points out in his writings, that it’s an interesting irony that the people most likely to buy our food and to appreciate the benefits to animal and man of having pasture-raised foods are in fact the people most likely to support and vote for legislation that makes it most difficult to fight the predators. (And that included us.)
Stay tuned for Part 2: A Cow Goes Missing and One Thing Leads To Another.
Apologies to Al Gore, but reducing your carbon footprint is so last year. Anyone who’s been even vaguely listening in the last few months is hearing the growing chorus of voices from the likes of Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver and, most recently, New York Times columnist Mark Bittman about bringing green to the table. And they’re not just talking parsley.
Even Monsanto is trying to (falsely) jump on the bandwagon with a new tagline that trumpets the giant agrichemical, GMO-promoting corporation as “committed to sustainable agriculture.” Though I almost threw an (organically grown) tomato at the radio when I heard that on NPR’s business show, Marketplace, yesterday. (Don’t they vet those sponsor taglines for accuracy?)
But I digress. The point of this post is to share a recipe for chicken verde enchiladas that I stitched together, Frankenstein-like, from a recipe from my brother's friend Shauneen (about 75%), a recent batch of tomatillo salsa from Mark Bittman (15%) and my own messing around (10%, if that).
And yes, nearly all of the ingredients are organically grown (though not necessary certified). The brilliant thing about Shauneen’s recipe was that it called for a roasted deli chicken instead of a) roasting it just for this recipe, way too much trouble for me, and b) using leftovers, still a good idea but we often don’t have enough remaining.
To make it Dave-safe, I used extra-sharp cheddar (a serious transgression, I know, but fake cheese is worse) and tofu sour cream (from Tofutti, my fave fake product) for garnish. Otherwise, like I said, totally green!
Chicken Verde Enchiladas
From a variety of sources (see above)
For the roasted tomatillo chile salsa:
1 lb. tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 yellow onion, peeled, sliced and quartered
4 garlic cloves
2 ancho chiles, roasted, skins removed, stemmed and seeded
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt (plus more to taste)
1/2 c. chopped cilantro leaves
1 lime, juiced
For the enchiladas:
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 med. onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. chicken stock
1 roasted chicken (from the deli, about 3 pounds), boned, meat shredded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 lg. (approx. 8” diam.) flour tortillas
1/2 lb. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 c. sour cream
Chopped tomatoes and cilantro leaves, for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. On a baking tray, roast tomatillos, quartered onion and garlic for 15 minutes. Transfer the roasted vegetables and any juices on the bottom of the tray to a food processor. Add the roasted chiles, cumin, salt, cilantro, and lime juice and pulse mixture until well combined but still a little chunky. Add more salt to taste.
Meanwhile heat the vegetable oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cumin then cook for a further minute. Sprinkle on the flour and stir to ensure the flour doesn’t burn, then very gradually add the chicken stock to make a veloute. Continue stirring over a low simmer until the flour cooks and the liquid thickens. Turn off the heat, add half of the roasted tomatillo chile salsa and fold in the shredded chicken meat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Lower the temperature of the oven to 350° and begin assembling the dish. Take a 9” by 12” baking dish and smear the bottom with some of the reserved tomatillo salsa. Take the flour tortillas and coat each tortilla lightly with the reserved salsa mix. Put a scoop of the shredded chicken-enchilada mix on top of the tortilla followed by a sprinkle of the shredded cheese. Fold the tortilla over the filling and roll like a cigar to enclose it. Line up the tortillas in the baking dish and continue to do the same with all the tortillas. Finally pour over the remaining salsa, spread evenly and top with the remaining shredded cheese. Bake uncovered for about 30-45 minutes until bubbly and cracked on top. Garnish with cilantro and tomato.
Serve hot with sour cream and fresh guacamole, if desired. (Chipotle sauce also adds a nice smokiness.)
I’ve been revisiting my love of coleslaw lately, so when I read this recipe from Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood and then saw, to my amazement, that he included the addictively delicious bread and butter jalapeños made by Barb and Dave Barber, I just had to tell you about it.
I was making a batch of my semi-creamy coleslaw last week, and there in the refrigerator was a container of the incredibly tasty bread and butter jalapenos from Picklopolis at the Portland Farmers Market. Mashup ensues:
Semi-Spicy, Semi-Creamy Coleslaw
Dissolve about a tablespoon of sugar and good pinch of sea salt (kosher salt also works) in a half cup or so of Katz Gravenstein Apple Cider vinegar. Add a cup or so of extra virgin olive oil and stir well.
Chop a head of green cabbage and add to dressing. Drain the brine from about a cup of bread and butter jalapenos into the slaw, then chop the jalapenos and add them. Stir in a couple of dollops of mayo, more or less, depending on how creamy you like your slaw.
With the weather creeping toward summerlike, I’m thinking more about cool salads and picnics in a park, not to mention easy but impressive side dishes I can take to potluck dinners. This recipe for farro salad fits all those categories, and is perfect for any vegetarians in the crowd.
Farro & Pecorino Salad
From Luan Schooler at Foster & Dobbs
1 c. whole grain Farro
4 oz. good aged pecorino, cut into little cubes
1 c. halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 c. oil-cured olives, pitted & chopped roughly
A handful of basil leaves
6 tablespoons (more or less) of good, full flavored olive oil
Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
Cook the farro in the salted water at a bare simmer until just tender. Drain well and spread on a baking sheet to cool (or, if you’re in a hurry, run under cold water and drain thoroughly). Gently combine the farro, cheese, tomatoes and olives. Drizzle with olive oil—start with about 4 tablespoons, let it sit a few minutes, taste and add some more if it seems dry. Tear basil leaves and fold into salad, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
Most of the time with cooking and eating, the rules are clear.
A father’s legacy
The vegetarian-cooking pioneer
Barbecue, tamales, cocktails, and more
Good on everything