Thanksgiving Pickles

It was a beautiful fall day today here in the Bay area. After a busy week at work that included some out of state travel, I promised myself that I wouldn’t plan anything this weekend and just live it minute by minute.

This is the weekend before Thanksgiving so I had fun shopping for Thursday’s dinner. First I visited the Downtown Berkeley Ecology Center Farmers Market for a few basics – potatoes, onions, mushrooms – but I also picked up some ingredients to make pickles and kimchi because I am always hungry for pickled foods this time of year. Plus, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without a pickle plate! I visited the Rockridge Market Hall in Oakland for specialty foods including very fresh seafood from Hapuku Fish Shop, locally produced meats from Marin Sun Meats, and world class wines from Paul Marcus Wines.

Salting Napa cabbage for kimchi

Salting Napa cabbage for kimchi

I didn’t can my grandmother’s pickled beets this summer so I decided to make a “quick pickle” recipe that was shared with me by Jane Wilson Morton, the niece of the co-owners of Werth and O’Brien’s Deli in Flatbush. Brooklyn. This German deli is long gone but I was able to publish this recipe in my book Pickled (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2003). This recipe can be prepared 1-3 days before enjoying, and can be made without sealing jars in a hot water bath. It’s very simple and tasty!  Click on the image below to see the full recipe.

 

Werth and O'Brien's Pickled Beets

Werth and O’Brien’s Pickled Beets

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In addition to beets, I made a jar of pickled cherry peppers (again for the refrigerator) and I began salting two heads of Napa cabbage that I bought of the farmers market today for kimchi. I also roasted some red jalapeno peppers to make a spicy version of romesco-style sauce to accompany roasted Brussels sprouts.

Roasted red jalapeno chile peppers in oil with garlic

Roasted red jalapeno chile peppers in oil with garlic

Through the years I’ve had fun posting to this blog about Thanksgiving, including a post dedicated to family favorites like Thanksgiving dressing. If you aren’t sure how to make Thanksgiving dressing/stuffing, be sure to check out that link for inspiration. I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.

What month is it?

This week I came closer to being an official Californian. I finally transferred my car registration and got my California license plates. Better late than never! I attempted to get my California driver’s license, too, but I didn’t bring one essential piece of I.D. so I had to make a new appointment with the DMV in two weeks to complete the marathon. After that I can finally get other really important tasks out of the way such as my voter I.D. card and library card. There is a “tool” library here in Berkeley that I may not use until I get the my library card. I could use a leaf blower but I’m not buying one.

I’ve been amazed at the diverse local produce offerings so close to Thanksgiving Day. I picked up some pineapple guava (feijoas) and organic kiwi yesterday. Feijoas are a tropical fruit that is about the size of a kiwi but has a tart pineapple flavor with a mango-like texture and soft edible seeds. I made a fall fruit salad with (except the Costa Rican pineapple) fruit available now at the local farmers market including Asian pears, feijoas, kiwi and pomegranate seeds. What month is it, again?

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Last week I also picked up another Mystery Thursday vegetable box from Mariquita Farm, a mixed box of pastured pork cuts from Linda’s Tasty Pork and some wild-caught salmon fillets from her son who just got back from fishing in Alaska’s pristine Bristol Bay. My freezer is filling up for winter and it makes me feel productive and prepared for winter. Although I’m wondering how prepared I’ll need to be if strawberries are available farmers market in November!

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The Mystery Thursday box from Mariquita Farm included:

  • Chard
  • Napa Cabbage
  • Red jalapenos
  • Leek
  • Arugula
  • Watercress
  • Kale
  • Eggplant
  • Chinese radishes
  • tomatoes
  • Green garlic

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At the Ecology Center Farmers Market in Downtown Berkeley, I picked up the following:

  • Feijoas
  • Broccolini
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Shittake mushrooms
  • Asian pears
  • Lettuce
  • Cilantro

This is what November produce looks like in northern California.

Slowly Getting Settled in California

One year ago, I didn’t know I would be living in California. I could say our transition started in December when J signed his employment paperwork to go to work for a company that would move us to the San Francisco area, but that’s not entirely true.

In the spring of 2014, I knew my time as Founding Director of the Puget Sound Food Hub would have to end so that the project could thrive. I willed change to happen, but I didn’t know when it would be right for me to leave or how it would happen. I needed to let go slowly so that others could assume their leadership roles and continue building and shaping the project into a sustainable, farmer owned cooperative. The goal to really expand the market for small and mid-scale farmers, increasing food access and reducing emissions by taking trucks off the road through creating strong partnerships and building a coordinated grassroots supply chain was lofty, but it was working!  I was optimistic and I was tired. How would I plan to leave a vocation that had become a central part of my identity – my torch – for the last six years? Did I do enough?

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In my case there was not much advance planning. J was courted by a few companies and we decided the Bay area was the best place for both of us career-wise (me = food systems and he =  game industry) so he said yes. He drove down two weeks later and I spent the next four months wrapping up the project and passing the baton to colleagues. The weather in the Bay area would be more similar to Seattle than Los Angeles or the Midwest (yes I like clouds and rain). The decision to move was made pretty quickly but getting settled in has taken many more months and has been much more stressful than I imagined. This due to the increased cost of living, a super competitive housing market, and being a newcomer, among other things.

I am grateful to have landed a job quickly upon arriving. After living in short term housing while looking for something to buy during our first three months here, we decided to rent a home in Berkeley. We both wanted to live in Berkeley. We found a nice rental home that accepted our two dogs, and the neighborhood is comparable to our old one. We have privacy, an avocado tree and raised garden beds in the back yard. Our neighbors are all very nice. It’s an easy place to live and we are paying a fortune for it.

I often remind myself that I asked for change, and the universe answered, “OK, here ya go!” My response has been a combination of “thank you” and an 8-month long stream of expletives and resistance. I’ve been a brat many days since moving here. But I’m nearer to “letting come” or heading downward into the U.  I wish I could say I’m nearer to letting go of my former life, but that’s just not the truth. I’m working on it and have one more thing I need to accomplish (writing a white paper that tells the story of the food hub’s development). I haven’t found my next calling yet. I know I need to be patient since I’m still feeling a tad burnt-out from my last one, so I guess I should lighten up, right?

Reading the stories of refugees from Syria and Iraq on Humans of New York Facebook page this summer made me ponder the human’s ability to rapidly adjust to “the new” when faced with life or death decisions. When a person has no choice but to leave their home, they cannot afford to have a breakdown, can they? A person must simply choose to live and then put one foot in front of the other, and try to keep themselves and their loved ones intact through the transition into relative safety. I wrote a little about how people maintain their values and identity through food in my book, Pickled (2003). I read these new stories and wondered what memories will sustain these people? My guess is: a favorite tree, a familiar smell coming from the kitchen, a friendly neighbor waving hello. It’s the little mundane things, added up, that mean the most to us and make us feel like we belong. I hope and pray for their safe landing.

Memories of home can manifest in new places, but we have to be open to seeing it. Recently “home” has become a new favorite running spot, a new favorite tree, a familiar smell from my kitchen, my friendly new neighbors waving hello when they see me. I’ve been comforted at just how nice Californian’s have been to me, J and our dogs. Recently some dear friends drove up from LA to see me, and their visit lit up my home and my life with dancing and laughter.

And I’m absolutely loving the local, seasonal produce in Northern California.

The food grown in California is different, more diverse, than in Washington, Oregon, New York or Texas (the other states where I’ve lived and called home). Despite the serious drought, California’s mediterranean climate and soils provides an abundance of year-round produce that I’ve never experienced any other place. Last week I picked up a produce box from Mariquita Farm with eggplant, frying peppers, cherry peppers, pomegranate, turnips (two kinds) chard, lemongrass, green garlic, apples, tomatoes, cabbage, and arugula. I know, right? Bountiful!

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This week I picked up more tomatoes, onions, plums, eggplant, shiitake mushrooms, cucumbers (two kinds), and a pumpkin (not shown here) at the Ecology Center Farmers Market in Downtown Berkeley. Just two weeks after moving into this rental house, I got out my canner and canned tomatoes and pickles, and have since made another batch of slow roasted tomatoes, roasted red peppers to have in the fridge for salads, sandwiches and easy pasta dishes. Last night I grilled a batch of eggplant to freeze for future casseroles and dips. I have found a new source for pastured, organic beef and pork (but let’s face it, Skagit River Ranch is a tough act to follow!)

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Preparing and eating good food from my new home state is a simple, familiar way that I can connect with the feeling of being at home. I did the same thing when I moved to New York, Portland and Seattle and it worked every time. New friendships will come next. Then, hopefully, in time, a new calling will emerge.

Last week I put a deposit down for our Thanksgiving turkey through a program coordinated by Slow Food Russian River to support heritage breeds, young farmers, 4H, and organic farming. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be part of supporting this effort.

J and the dogs- my immediate family – are here with me and we are well. I miss Seattle. I missed Portland and New York when I left, too. I miss my family and friends in Texas. It’s the same small world.

But I guess time will change everything.

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Lobster Pernod Chowder

Lobster Pernod Chowder

Lobster Pernod Chowder

Christmas is over and New Year’s Eve is just around the corner. Before the festivities of the season are replaced by resolutions of detox diets and gym memberships, I wanted to share a recipe that made Christmas Eve at our house deliciously decadent. It’s also a great recipe to save for next year’s Feast of the Seven Fishes – an Italian American Christmas Eve culinary tradition.

This recipe uses three different sized pots and pans and a food processor, but it’s otherwise a simple recipe to follow. It’s so delicious, you’ll forget about the extra dishes to wash.

Lobster Pernod Chowder

INGREDIENTS
  • 1/3 large yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 celery rib, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter 
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 pounds lobster meat, chopped
  • 5 cups fish, chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup Pernod liquor
  • 1 pound white or yellow potatoes, peeled, chopped in 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1/4 tsp dill, fresh, chopped fine (dried is OK)
  • 1/4 tsp tarragon, fresh chopped fine (dried is OK)
  • 3 cups half-and-half cream
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS

In the bowl of a food processor, combine onion, shallot and celery and then pulse until uniformly minced. Set aside.

Melt butter in a large kettle or stock pot over medium heat. Add onions, shallots and celery mixture and saute until translucent. Stir in flour and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for 2 to 4 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a large saucepan, heat lobster in broth and pernod on low heat. Do not boil. Simmer for 5-7 minutes.

In a small saucepan, cover peeled and chopped potatoes with water. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Slowly pour hot lobster and broth into butter/flour mixture, stirring constantly. Continue stirring and slowly bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat and add cooked potatoes. Mix in half and half, salt and pepper and herbs. Heat through but do not boil.

The chowder will continue to thicken as it cools. Ladle soup into bowls and top with more fresh herbs or croutons. It is excellent served with warmed sourdough bread.  Leftovers (if you have any) will keep well for about 2 days refrigerated. 

 

Thanksgiving 2014 – Giving Thanks and Thinking About Water

J and I visited the popular U-District Farmers Market in Seattle on Saturday to pick up the turkey I ordered in August from Skagit River Ranch. We’re nearing the end of the growing season for a lot of small farms around here, but I gathered most of the seasonal ingredients I wanted to round out a simple Thanksgiving dinner. Some of the farms, like Sol to Seed, were finishing up their market season on Saturday so I wanted to buy some extra storage items (i.e. onions, winter squash, dried beans) before farms took their winter break to prepare for seasonal floods. Just two days after visiting the farmers market, Sol to Seed posted a photo of flooding at their farm in the Snoqualmie Valley on their Facebook page. The flood season begins.

Last Thursday I attended the Focus on Farming conference at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds where I led a panel discussion about regional food hubs. The conference was smaller than in previous years but the depth of the presentations and speakers was immense, particularly on the topic of conservation, climate change and drought. Two highlights for me included a fascinating lunchtime keynote by Fred Kirschenmann (Leopold Center Distinguished Fellow and thought leader on sustainable agriculture and land ethics) and Chad Kruger, Director of the Washington State University Center for Sustaining Agriculture & Natural Resources. Chad’s presentation introduced us to the Western Washington Climate Change Assessment. One of the toughest challenges predicted for our generation is water scarcity attributed to climate change. Evidence shows that there will be a significant increase in chronic droughts in the lower half of the United States within the next two decades. Droughts that will alter our current domestic agriculture production and thus alter distribution channels, food costs, etc. Although the pivot point of my work is to create market based solutions for agriculture businesses, climate change is ultimately why I work in local food systems.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we must work hard now to prepare our agriculture infrastructure (marketing, processing, warehousing, transportation) while we advocate for better and fairer environmental regulations to protect our natural resources and public health policies to ensure food access. We have to continue to make farming a more profitable venture for future farmers while at the same time increase the value of farmland and provide affordable access to farmland for future farmers. Agriculture has to prepare itself for inevitable future development as climate change refugees may likely overburden this region’s ability to produce food, water and shelter for all of its citizens.These shifts will exhaust the precious natural resources required for sustaining civilization as we know it. Northwest Washington was not prepared for the influx of people flocking to the region during the 1990’s tech boom, but we have to get serious about the challenges facing our foodshed and watershed in the not so distant future. Folks, there is a sense of urgency here.

If you want to learn more, here are a list of resources recommended by Fred Kirschenmann in his talk:

This year I am thankful for many things. I am a very lucky and blessed person.  For this post, I would like to say thanks to the farmers who feed me.
Eiko Vojkovich of Skagit River Ranch.  She and her husband George raise pastured turkeys certified organic turkeys on their farm in Sedro-Woolley.  In fact, they supply most of the meat consumed in our home throughout the year. THANK YOU EIKO , GEORGE (and their daughter Nicole, too)!

Eiko Vojkovich of Skagit River Ranch. She and her husband George raise pastured, certified organic turkeys on their farm in Sedro-Woolley. In fact, they supply most of the meat consumed in our home throughout the year. THANK YOU EIKO and GEORGE (and their daughter Nicole, too)!

Thank you Matt and Deanna of Sol to Seed Farm

Thank you Matt and Deanna of Sol to Seed Farm

Thank you Seattle Youth Garden Works / Seattle Tilth!

Thank you Seattle Youth Garden Works / Seattle Tilth

Thank you Tonnemaker Farms

Thank you Tonnemaker Farms

Cassius and Roxy can't wait for Thanksgiving

Cassius and Roxy can’t wait for Thanksgiving

Last thought here. I’ll be baking cornbread today while the turkey thaws. One of my favorite Thanksgiving foods is cornbread dressing. Last year, I compiled four family recipes for dressing from my mom, my sister Shawna and my cousin Janice. If you are looking for inspiration, check it out!

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Slow Roasted Tomatoes in Olive Oil, Garlic and Oregano

Slow Roasted Tomatoes in Olive Oil, Garlic and Oregano

Yesterday I slow roasted five pounds of small, ripe, homegrown tomatoes given to me by a generous co-worker who owns a hobby farm. By slow roasting, I mean four or more hours at a low 200 – 250 degrees fahrenheit. Slow roasting minimizes moisture loss and concentrates flavor. I wanted to reduce the moisture content – not dry it out or burn it.  

Five pounds of small to medium tomatoes (variety)

Five pounds of small to medium tomatoes (variety)

Five pounds of tomatoes, halved and placed on parchment lined baking pans

Five pounds of tomatoes, halved and placed on parchment lined baking pans

 

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

  • 5 lbs. small to medium sized tomatoes, stems and blemishes removed, cut in halves
  • 1 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling over tomatoes
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano, basil or thyme, rinsed and towel dried
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced into four halves
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Line 2-3 flat baking pan (cookie sheet or roasting pan) with parchment paper. Place tomato halves cut side up. Be careful not to crowd the pan, allowing space between the tomato halves. Sprinkle the tomato halves with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper and drizzle lightly and evenly with olive oil.

Place the pans on the oven racks and roast for two hours. Check every hour and the rotate pans. Raise temperature to 250 and roast for another 2 or more hours. The tomatoes will be done when the moisture is mostly reduced but still soft to the touch. The tomatoes will be much smaller and darker reddish brown but not burned or even scorched. Some of the smaller tomatoes might appear more “sundried” than the larger tomatoes. This is acceptable, depending on the outcome you desire.

In a clean quart-sized jar, insert a piece of garlic and the herb sprig. Spoon in about a fourth of the tomatoes. Then layer in another piece of garlic with another fourth of the tomatoes, and repeat this step two more times until there are no tomatoes or sliced garlic remaining. Add enough olive oil to cover the tomatoes then jostle (do not shake) the jar lightly to remove any air bubbles and then fasten the lid. There is no need to seal the jar in a hot water bath, but remember to keep the jar refrigerated and use clean utensils when handling the tomato pieces.

These tomatoes are delicious eaten on toast with fresh goat cheese, tossed into pasta, stacked into your favorite sandwich. This is concentrated tomato flavor, so a little goes a long way. Store covered in the fridge for a few weeks but I bet it won’t last that long.

The smell of tomatoes roasting makes me feel calm and happy.

The smell of tomatoes roasting makes me feel calm and happy.

 

Roasted tomatoes ready for the jar.

Roasted tomatoes ready for the jar.

Recipe for “This Pizza”

Oh yeah. This Pizza. Skagit River Ranch uncured bacon, Yukon gold potato, and a mix of Gruyere and Cougar Gold cheeses with caramelized onions, garlic sautéed broccoli – all placed over a heavy cream base. Incredibly warm, rich and filling this pizza is best served with a green salad and an ice cold beverage. I was sipping a negroni cocktail while making it.

This Pizza

This Pizza

Pizza dough is very easy to make – it’s just flour, yeast, salt, olive oil and water – but there are grab and go options for those who don’t want to bother with mixing dough at home. Mark Bittman has a reliable homemade dough recipe and local bakeries Grand Central Baking Co. and Essential Baking Co have reliably good pizza dough, as Whole Foods Market also sells pizza dough made with organic flour. Regardless of the origin of your dough, prepare your pizza dough hours before cooking to allow it to thaw and rise. There are gluten free options that would work really well, too. Check out this recipe at The Art of Gluten Free Baking.

Most of the fresh toppings I used were organic and sourced locally from farmers markets here in Seattle but can be found in most grocery stores that sell fresh foods. Gruyere cheese, cream and Yukon Gold potatoes can also be found at just about any grocery store these days. For those who live outside Washington state, you can order a tin of Cougar Gold Cheese and have it shipped. Skagit River Ranch bacon is available to locals only. While I believe that their bacon is far superior than anything I’ve ever tasted, you may substitute it with another uncured slab bacon or Canadian style uncured bacon. I strongly encourage sourcing your meat from local farms if possible. You’ll get a cleaner product and you’ll have the opportunity to learn how the animal was raised, slaughtered, etc. Farm direct meat is typically more expensive (because small farms are not subsidized by the government, you pay the real cost of production) but if you eat less meat in your overall diet, the quality of life will improve and the impact on your budget should balance out. I made This Pizza is a Friday night treat to celebrate the end of my summer vacation. Please don’t eat like this every day. It will kill you.

The recipe makes one 12 inch pizza and serves 4 adults (cut into 8 slices). I use a very worn 15 inch pizza stone to bake pizza but a regular cookie sheet can work just fine.

This Pizza

  • 1 prepared pizza dough (16 oz.)
  • 5 slices uncured Skagit River Ranch bacon
  • 1 large Yukon gold potato, boiled and sliced into wedges and lightly oiled and salted
  • 1/2 yellow or purple onion, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 5 broccoli spears, sliced thin
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1 lb. Cougar Gold cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 lb. Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 1 Tablespoon heavy whipping cream (I used Organic Valley)

Preheat your oven to 500 F.

In large frying pan or saute pan, fry the bacon on medium heat until cooked through but not too brown. Transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain and set aside. Add the onion slices to the pan with the reserved bacon grease and saute on medium heat until caramelized. Transfer onions to a small bowl and set aside. In the same pan, heat about a teaspoon of olive oil and then add the sliced broccoli spears, a pinch of salt, red pepper flakes and minced garlic. Saute on medium heat until the broccoli begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Grate the cheeses using a food processor or cheese grater. Mix with your hand to combine and set aside. Arrange all of the toppings in a central work area in your kitchen where you will assemble your pizza.  This is your mis en place of boiled sliced potato, sauteed broccoli, caramelized onion, cooked bacon strips, shredded cheese and cream.)

Assuming you have prepared your dough according to instructions, it’s time to roll it out. On a hard flat surface (a wooden pastry cutting board works great), roll out your dough with a rolling pin or flatten using your hands. Once the dough is flattened out to about 15 inches round (or rectangle if using a cookie sheet), fold the dough in half, and then fold in half again and then transfer it to your pizza stone or cookie sheet. Unfold the dough carefully, pinching together any holes that may have been created during transfer. Use your rolling pin or hands to flatten again and reshape.

Now the fun part!  Assemble This Pizza.

Pour the cream into the center of the raw crust and then smear it thoroughly using the back of the spoon to coat. This is your base. Next sprinkle the cheese mixture to thoroughly cover the crust. Then place the salted oiled potato wedges in a spiral or circle around the pizza. Then sprinkle the caramelized onions over the top of the potatoes. Place the bacon strips on the pizza in the shape of a tire spoke. Lastly sprinkle the sauteed broccoli and remaining bits of garlic and red pepper flakes left in the pan, over the top. Finish the pizza preparation by pulling in about one inch of dough around the whole pizza to create an edge. This edge makes the pizza easy to handle for eating out of hand, and also helps prevent cheese leakage while cooking. This Pizza is not a very wet pizza so this last step is not required.

Using pot holders on both hands, place the raw pizza in the center of the hot oven and bake for 10-12 minutes.  Turn down the heat to 350 F and cook for another 10-15 minutes until the edges are dark golden brown and the broccoli and bacon are singed but not too burnt.  Carefully remove from the oven and set aside on a bread board or the pizza stone foundation.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes to cool and set before slicing. Slice with a sharp pizza cutter and serve warm.

Let me know what you think!