Entries tagged with “Local Food”.


The new book by James McWilliams, Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly, set out to be provocative, and I guess I got provoked. My review of it is in today’s Christian Science Monitor here.

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Fellow dessert lovers, who among us has not wondered about the technical differences between a crisp and a crumble, a galette or a buckle? Enter Rustic Fruit Desserts, a collaboration between James Beard winner Cory Schreiber and Portland baker Julie Richardson, a book whose usefulness is clear straight from the introduction, where the authors describe each pastry-fruit iteration. (A galette? It’s a free-form tart that does not require a pan. A buckle has cake batter poured in a single layer, with berries added to the batter.)

In summer’s heat, flipping through the pages of their seasonal desserts makes me want to load up on ingredients for Raspberry-Red Currant Cobbler or Stone Fruit Slump. The recipes are straightforward, but irresistable– a bite of ginger here, candied rhubarb ribbons there, flavor combinations like plum and vanilla, peach and caramel. 

 The pair will be in town Wednesday, July 29, for a Cooks & Books event, with the exceptional Neil Robertson cooking up their recipes. They answered some questions in advance via e-mail, including my unusually impolite inquiry about whether the “rustic” of their title could properly be considered a code word for “ugly”. (Read about that in my Christian Science Monitor post here.)

Here’s what they had to say. And if you want to nibble on more than just their words, tickets to the event are online here:

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jamjars1 Between recession and home-cooking renaissance, canning is making a comeback.

You can join in with a national “Cans Across America” event Aug. 29-30, spearheaded by some of our own Seattleites. Or, get an in-depth head start with a series of canning classes in Everett, offered by the WSU Snohomish County extension. 

Plenty of people have avoided canning because they’re afraid of risking botulism. Until recently, that category included me. I only canned my first tomatoes last year, taking a WSU King County Extension class to gain confidence, due to my acute… ah… awareness of food safety. As I wrote then, in my childhood home “any word association game would have paired “pork” in the same column as “trichinosis,” and the words “canned mushrooms” would logically have been followed by the term “botulism.”

I’ve had the canning bug since, moving on to jams and other preserves and pickles, reveling in the classic “ping” of a jar lid and the recipes of mavens like Marisa McClellan. But, as I’ve grown more comfortable with the safety procedures myself, I’ve started wondering: Is botulism really that prevalent? Do I need to wash my jars in hot soapy water AND sterilize them in boiling water AND dry them in an oven at the appropriate temperature AND add the proper amount of acidifying ingredients AND process them for the recommended length of time in boiling water? 

I don’t want to fool around with anything marked “fatal nerve toxin,” of course, but I also wondered how significant the risk is. While we do hear about occasional botulism cases –a nurse and her young children dangerously sickened by green beans this year, for instance — we hear about far more deaths from e. coli and salmonella and listeriosis. I don’t hear a lot about death by jam.

Checking in with the experts, here’s what I learned: (more…)

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Egg destined for the scramble/Rebekah Denn photo

Egg crack/Rebekah Denn photo

An old friend was in town Monday, and I missed the regular meetup of former P-I employees at Aster coffeehouse. I didn’t skip it because of the United Way Hunger Challenge, but it did occur to me that I’d blow an uncomfortable percentage of my challenge budget if I did scramble to make the meeting. I missed the company as well as the coffee, though. Financial planners collectively ding the daily latte, but it’s a very enjoyable social ritual. And I came in enough under my $22 budget yesterday to loosen up and make some different choices today. At my beginning photography class, for instance, where I brought this egg picture today for an assignment, students often walk to Stumptown before class or during the break, and I decided to go ahead and join in. I used $2.75 of today’s food budget on that cup of French press. I enjoyed it more than caviar.

And the eggs? I invested eight of them in tonight’s dinner. Eggs cost more than they used to cost, but they’re still admirably inexpensive  and versatile, and I was pleasantly surprised to see I didn’t have to fight my ethics to keep them on the menu this week. A dozen cage-free, Certified Humane eggs from Stiebrs Farms were on sale for $1.99 at PCC (regularly $2.39), or 17 cents apiece — no more than the cut-rate eggs I had guiltily picked up earlier for the photo shoot. Normally, I spring for organic eggs, at double the price, but I was satisfied by the description of the Stiebrs eggs to go for these. (Wilcox Farms, also local, is Certified Humane as well.) 

I’ve been flipping through Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid books for ideas, and tonight’s dinner was a from-memory adaptation of their stir-fried cellophane noodles and eggs from Hot Salty Sour Sweet. (If you’ve got that wonderful book, you can let me know if I missed any key ingredients.) I sauteed two chopped shallots and a clove of garlic in olive oil in a big skillet, added eight lightly beaten eggs, and sprinkled on a few dashes of fish sauce. When the eggs were nearly scrambled, I added about 8 ounces of soaked cellophane noodles, and stirred it all together. I squeezed a lime on top and added a sprinkle of chopped bulk-bin peanuts.

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We took the ferry to Vashon Island to visit friends, but as long as we were there, we didn’t want to miss the Vashon farmers market and a stop at La Boucherie, the restaurant run by Sea Breeze Farm. I’m accustomed to buying raw materials such as meat and milk from Sea Breeze at Seattle venues; I liked the idea of sampling how they would cook and serve their own products, in their own island environment.

This early in the season, we were glad just to wander without fleece or raincoats; we knew we’d be lucky to find even salad greens to contribute to our friends’ kitchen. By the time we arrived around 1 p.m., though, even the greens were gone — but, unlike the Seattle markets, where eggs sell out post-haste, we still could have scored a basket of pastel beauties practically custom-laid for Easter.

Eggs at the Vashon Island Farmers Market

Eggs at the Vashon Island Farmers Market

Hogsback Farm table: "Sorry! We sold out!"

Hogsback Farm table: "Sorry! We sold out!"

Some markets stick purely to harvest goods, but I’ve always liked a mix of vendors. I was glad to see, especially in this spare season, some crafts, a Vashon winery, a chocolatier, and homemade caramels, among other tables. 

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I feel compelled to chronicle the successes of Mount Townsend Creamery for two reasons: One, the Port Townsend-based business makes great cheese. Two, I once proclaimed that its cheeses are among the best in the country, and I’m always glad to have formal backup for my judgments. This time it’s in the form of the 2009 United States Cheese Championship, which the Associated Press calls “the cheese makers Super Bowl,” where Mount Townsend took first place for its Trailhead Tomme in the category of semi-soft cheeses.

The championship website doesn’t have an overview of the winners, you need to click on each of the 65 categories to see who won. After some excruciating search time, it occurred to me that Oregon-based cheese author Tami Parr had probably already pulled out exactly the information I wanted. And indeed she had, listing all the Northwest winners on her Pacific Northwest Cheese Project site. Tami wrote that “this year’s buzz is all about Tumalo Farms of Bend, Oregon, which took runner up to Best in Show (that’s 2nd place out of 1,300+ cheeses) for its Gouda style Goat’s milk Classico - quite a feat.”

There are various cheese competitions around the world, with different emphases on large producers and small. (I didn’t see Beecher’s, for instance, a big gun in various cheese awards, with any entries at this event.) Parr has this take on it: “While this contest tends to be dominated by cheesemakers from industrial sized cheese plants, artisan cheesemakers often enter the prestigious competition for the chance to be judged by the best experts in the industry.”

When looking at Mount Townsend’s web site just now, I noticed something new — Will O’Donnell, one of the creamery’s three founders, is no longer listed as an owner. Looks like he’s now director of the Port Townsend Farmers Market.

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Kurt Timmermeister, who has sold raw milk from his Vashon Island dairy farm for the past four years, is done. In the next few weeks, he wrote, he will give up his license to sell fluid milk and will concentrate instead on making cheese. He’s ordered a cheese vat-pasteurizer from the Netherlands, and a holding/chilling tank from Canada, and will only sell milk until the new equipment is here and hooked up. First on his cheese list is a Camembert, well-suited to the “rich, creamy milk” from his Jersey cows.

Timmermeister has written eloquently about the licensing and health department hassles surrounding raw milk, and its potential benefits and dangers have long spurred debates and lawsuits — but he didn’t invoke the controversies when describing the changeover.

He wrote:

“At the end of last year, I had a bit of an epiphany. I was done selling milk. 

My attention span is limited. I can only find something exciting for a period of time. Then I want to try a new challenge. I had learned the milk trade. The barn was built, the dairy too and the pastures were coming in nicely. A new challenge was needed.”

 

 

 

 

Read more, and keep up with his cheesemaking journey, here.

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