Earth Day, designated as April 22nd each year, represents something uniquely different to each and every one of us. Whether it’s appreciation for open space, clean air to breathe, or fresh food to nourish ourselves, whatever your view, there’s much to be grateful for.
If you’re immersed in the Pacific Northwest’s food community, you may be aware of Linda Neunzig and the significance of the work she is doing as a farmer and as Snohomish County’s Agricultural Coordinator. Her joyful laugh and unwavering commitment as a single mom and farmer, demonstrate her passion about providing local food and productive farm land for generations to come. We are blessed and fortunate to have her leadership, activism and continued support to ourselves, our community and the planet Earth.
We’re passionate about Linda and her work, and know you will be too, as she shares her story on Sisters Talk Radio show. Please join us on Friday April 19th, 2:00pm Pacific time, for our conversation with Linda and Mona in honor of Earth Day.
If you’re interested in edible gardening, Spring is the perfect time of year to get started. Whether you’re an experienced gardener, or new to growing edibles in containers or in the ground, your local nursery will soon be hosting a series of free lectures and hands-on workshops to lend you a helping hand.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, the weather has been teasing us to get out in the garden. A day or two above 60 is only to be sandwiched in between a stretch of blustery gray, cool and rainy days. So timing is perfect for Molbak’s Garden + Home to host their “Edible Gardening” weekend full of demos and talks to help get you started from seed or start, in container or the ground.
For a fun twist to one of their educational hours (Sunday, from 2:30-3:30pm) they will be featuring Chef John Howie, author of Passion & Palate, Recipes for a Generous Table; and successful James Beard award-recognized restaurateur. This will be an energetic and information-packed event as John shows how to make his favorite vinaigrettes and dressings using fresh ingredients easily grown in the NW. Chef Howie will also share proven cooking tips on how to enhance your everyday cooking by adding flavorful fresh herbs. Samples, a sweet surprise, and book signing to follow. For more information and directions to their Woodinville, WA location, contact Molbak’s at (425) 483-5000.
Photo: Angie Norwood Browne – Passion & Palate: Recipes for a Generous Table
Springtime curls dewy petals in Seattle. Cherry blossoms sag in pink and white under rain splatter, and my favorite weeds, the dandelions, shake their golden manes, then fold their fringe into their green bracts. Part of the time we get a little sun here.
Best of all, I’m on spring break, and I’ve been cooking as much as possible in an attempt to balance all the take-out food I’ve been eating lately. I visited the farmer’s market and picked up potatoes and kumquats. I bought fresh okra, which is tastiest when simply sliced into rounds, sautéed with butter, and lightly seasoned with salt. I, of course, made Tamara’s Roasted Chicken and Smashed Potatoes, but this time my bird was really big, and even after making Lemon Chicken Risotto, I still had lots of leftovers. So, I decided to make pierogi!
I have never made pierogi before, but you can never go wrong stuffing food inside bread, like ravioli or hum bao. I researched this most famous Polish food, and discovered two main types: the boiled dumpling version, which is the most common, and a baked yeast dough version that works well for meat.
I started the yeast dough first, because it takes time to rise. I made the base first (a little yeast, water and flour), then divvied it up into smaller portions in a muffin tin and added egg and flour to rise again.
While the yeast was doing its thing, I made the fillings for both types of pierogi. For the meat filling, I minced the leftover chicken and sautéed it with chopped onions and mushrooms; for the potato filling, I just stirred in sautéed onions and cottage cheese. The seasonings on both meat and potato leftovers were plenty on their own, but adding some smoked paprika lets ‘em know you mean business.
The dough for boiled pierogi was easy and fun to make: just flour, water, egg, and a little salt. Roll it thin, then cut circles with a pint glass if you (like me) don’t have cookie cutters. Now you’re ready to stuff the pierogi.
Put a spoon of potato and cheese in the middle of the flattened dough, and pinch the edges shut with your fingers. Don’t overstuff, or the filling will leak out when you cook them! For the yeast dough, just mush the chicken into each ball with your fingers and pinch closed. (I used too much meat for mine, so they wouldn’t close, but they were awesome anyway). Bake the chicken pierogi at 325 degrees for 20 minutes or so. Boil the potato pierogi until they float. You can also pan fry the potato pierogi with onions after you boil them. Serve with sour cream and/or butter!
Pierogi are also excellent with any fresh seasonal fruit filling. Try them with Fresh Apricot Compote, Honey-Roasted Peaches, or just beat together sugar, sour cream and fresh berries. Use the same version of dough as for the potato pierogi, then boil and sauté. So delicious!
Our food choices matter, something many of us agree upon. How they matter, though, varies from person to person, a multi-layered prism that changes in its view depending on the angle and light shed to it.
Granted, I see fish heads and think fish stock and a flavorful chowder or risotto. Yet as simple as it can be, not many of us take the time to make it. Fortunately, various counties, countries and companies are now recognizing that landfills are land-full; and that instead the various food wastes filling them can shed light.
Admittedly I’ve been torn reading about this new food movement in Paris. In general, I’m often the one to encourage being open and trying something new; then there’s the core of me that is a cultural food romantic, rich in traditions and heritage. What’s your view on this one?
This sounds like an enjoyable and fascinating read layered with perspectives and insights to organic farming, lessons learned and how we grow one another along the way.
A non-traditional view of what goes on behind the scenes when you get your CSA boxes each week throughout the season…it lends perspective and appreciation for the planning and coordination it takes to fill those weekly boxes.
The Forest Ridge School parents knew of their faculty’s love for fresh seasonal foods by the number of teachers who ate alongside their daughters every day. For a few years now, students and teachers alike have been fortunate to be eating exceptional, freshly prepared lunches after bringing Chef Ron Askew on-board. As an instructor for Bastyr University, providing fresh, local and organic was his aim.
Not only would the girls eat well, the meal program would serve as a way to raise awareness about simple food choices. So would offering families and teachers a CSA box each week to bring seasonal foods into their homes. Boxes of organic produce would be available with the kitchen’s delivery each week from Farmer Mark of Garden Treasures as one more way to support the community.
To thank the teachers for their ‘tender’ care provided to their daughters, a group of parents organized a sit-down lunch for them on their last day of service. Great care planned a special experience, from decorating the cafeteria with beautiful flowers from their gardens, to serving a special meal inspired from TENDER: farmers, cooks, eaters made with local and organic seasonal ingredients.
Chef Ron and his ‘FRidge’ team oven-roasted asparagus and potatoes to accompany a selection of local artisan cheeses, followed by TENDER’s chilled strawberry soup made with first-of-the-season local berries served uniquely in a hand-carved Washington apple. The entrée salad was inspired by TENDER’s Wilted Frisee Salad with Farm-Fresh Eggs featuring the farm’s seasonal mixed greens with the addition of the Butter-Braised potatoes, tender roasted asparagus tips and local, organic eggs.
Thank you Chef Ron and the Forest Ridge team who prepared the wonderful meal, as well as the parents who sponsored the lunch and the community of teachers who are thoughtful ‘tenders’ of our children.
Come join us this Friday June 15 4 – 6 PM to meet our friend John Howie at the Kirkland Metropolitan Market. John will be serving his Crab and Corn Bisque along with Strawberry Shortcake. Bring your friends and start the weekend with a smile
After many, m-a-n-y warming meals of roasted winter squash and other hardy root vegetables, each Spring I anxiously await the first Farmers’ market of the season for anything tender, young and green. I know I’m not alone. It’s like our bodies crave it. Each year, surprisingly one day “it’s time!” as if spring hadn’t been expected. That’s what happened for me one Mothers’ Day that I fondly recall.
Our family was gathering for Mothers’ Day brunch. As expected the parking lots were full though it seemed far fewer parking spaces were available than for the surrounding businesses they served. Seeing the tell-tale colorful bouquets of spring blossoms wrapped in white butcher paper walking by suggested a pop-up local Farmers’ market was just around the corner. Yay! The local Farmers’ market season was here!
It was a partly sunny day, just warm enough to take my 80 year old parents for a leisurely stroll after brunch. It would be good to stretch their legs before the drive home, and I could share with them one of my favorite things to do.
In the Pacific NW, our local fruit and vegetable selections are fairly limited in selection early in the season. However spring is that short window of the year when sweet young, green garlic is available. Imagine my delight when my Mother asked me what those small bulbs with long greens were on a Farmer’s table. Not only was I going to enjoy a limited harvest of tender, young bulbs and their greens for dinner; I was also able to share with my Mother something new to her in her 80 years of food experiences!
I wasn’t surprised when offering to split the bunch with her that Mom quickly turned me down. NO, she wanted to have her own. It was obvious she wanted to play in the kitchen too. There were a few bunches left from the last of the local asparagus harvest, so we split a big bundle of spears that she sautéed for their dinner along with her tender young garlic—for the first time—in her 80+ years. Don’t you just love that?
You never know what treasures are to be found each trip to a local Farmers’ market. As much as I love the fresh flavors from our local harvests, for me true enjoyment of a Farmer’s Market is ‘seasoned’ by the total experience. The ability to interact with farmers and others in our community, adds a depth of perspective and bounty that keeps us connected to who we are, and each other.
Today I bought a pepper. I went to a big, chain grocery store (does it matter which one?), because it was snowy, and I didn’t want to chance the side streets to the produce stand. I bought a red bell pepper, and when the gal rang me up, the electronic sign read $2.99. $2.99! $2.99 for one red bell pepper, and it wasn’t even organic! It was grown in pesticide-soaked soil, probably picked forever ago, and imported to snowy Seattle to be sold for $2.99.
$2.99 might not sound like much, but that equals 18 packs of Ramen noodles or three cans of Spaghettios. And that’s the problem. As long as one healthy vegetable costs up to 18 times more than an entire processed meal, rates of hypertension, heart disease, and type II diabetes will continue to climb in America.
How much does it cost to cook a whole meal using fresh ingredients compared to a processed, corn-syrup-laden, sodium-laced meal? According to a survey conducted by the University of Washington in 2007, a 2000 calorie diet made up of junk food would cost $3.52, compared with $36.32 for a diet of healthier foods.
So, yeah, quality food is expensive; however, Americans on average spend only 6.9% of their income on food, the lowest of any nation on record, according to Natalie Jones of Civil Eats. By comparison, the majority of Europeans spend over 10% of their disposable income on food (France at 13.5%, Italy 14.2%). Though many Americans are feeling the crunch of higher food prices, we are still getting a lot of bang for our buck, relatively speaking, because we subsidize farming. Except we only subsidize unhealthy garbage: corn (for feed grain and high-fructose corn syrup) and soy (for soybean oil).
So what can we do? I suggest eating locally-grown, sustainable, healthy food. Swap out canned green beans for some grilled asparagus. Trade corn-on-the-cob for stuffed artichokes. Yeah, it costs a little more than their non-organic, supermarket counterparts, but if enough people do it, if enough people make the shift toward true foods, perhaps the subsidies will shift, too. Maybe local farmers who practice sustainable techniques can have a slice. If more people eat it, then more people will grow it, then more people will be able to afford it.
Northwest chefs do their own butchering… featuring Tamara Murphy and John Howie – “Increasingly, chefs are doing their own butchering. It’s good business sense as the return on investment is greater.” Great piece on how chefs are butchering their own meat for a number of different reasons. As a voracious, but conscious, meat-eater, I really resonated with this article and it made me want to understand the whole landscape better. The further away from our food we get, the easier it is to make poor choices.
Urban farmers and their eggs – Got Eggs? Egg-laying season is upon us and the hens are ramping up their production quantities. There’s nothing like a farm-fresh egg, or better yet, the nuances of flavor from one that’s been collected that morning and yet to be refrigerated. Have you considered raising your own?
The future of the cookbook (?) – Really fascinating read on how a Seattle chef, John Sundstrom of Lark, is taking a whole new approach to creating a cookbook by crowdfunding it through Kickstarter. For those unfamiliar with the process, you put your mostly-formed idea out there and ask people to fund it by committing a certain amount of money in escrow. If enough people commit and the funding threshold is met, the project moves forward. If not, everyone gets their money back and it’s back to the drawing board. A fascinating idea in general and even more so for a book project. How bad do you want those recipes?
Foraging in Seattle – NPR talks about the new food forest being planted in Beacon Hill. This was my first introduction to the concept and I love it! Note-worthy:
- “It will feature fruit-bearing perennials — apples, pears, plums, grapes, blueberries, raspberries and more.”
- “…the 7-acre plot…could make it the largest, urban food forest on public land in the U.S.”
- “The group is currently working with $100,000 in seed money to set up the first phase: a 1.75-acre test zone to be planted by the end of the year.”
I like this on so many levels. First, what great community-building. Second, it’s such a better way to feed the homeless. Third, who wouldn’t want more things growing around them?
New restaurant trend: Pop-ups! – It’s always been clear to me that no one really eats the same as someone else. This goes for what we eat, how we eat, when we eat, and why. With all this variation, why would menus in restaurants stay the same day after day? Pop-ups are a one-day, special menu served by chefs in their own restaurants or by sous and line chefs in borrowed spaces. This new restaurant trend is gathering momentum, many being put into place with the spirit of supporting the greater community of young chefs either interested in or getting a start on their own.
There is something amazing that happens when having a conversation with people and they are sharing their feelings or sharing something they are passionate about. You can hear it in their voice, see it in their eyes and their bodies seem to have this electricity. When we were working on TENDER: farmers,cooks,eaters and visiting farms, this was always the experience when talking with the farmers, I always left those visits knowing that I had been given a gift. Last week, shopping at Whole Foods I met John McDonald, a commercial fisherman in Alaska and Puget Sound and there it was again –
John shared with me his beliefs in family, community, stewardship and responsibility. Another gift -
“Being diligent and consistent starts with the very human hands of your local commercial fishermen to bring the best in quality; noticeably in each wild salmon you have for dinner with your family. My name is John C McDonald; I have commercially fished in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon. Since I was 19, I was on my first commercial fishing trip and I haven’t looked back ever since. Being a good steward of harvesting wild salmon has been a permanent law in my heart. The key is that I am just a steward of this valuable resource. The rewards of the labor that I have put into properly handling each salmon, is in the appreciation of my friends, family, and customers. It’s not a generalized practice to do what I do. Secure flake ice, pull at least one gill on each salmon for proper bleeding, and immediately hold in a slush ice of 33 degrees or less until the salmon gets cleaned within a few hours of catch and sold to a local distributor with 24 hours of catch in most cases. Not to mention the countless labor it takes to prepare, fish, transfer, and lastly transport and store the valuable resource until it reaches the market. We sell to only a couple of local distributors. Our website: www.isitwildsalmon.com markets to the direct consumers. We centralized our wild salmon sale right in our neighborhood on the premises of our church parking lot at Bryn Mawr United Methodist Church starting in August.”
John C McDonald
Ocean Run Seafoods, Inc.