salmon canning and hazel switches

I joined a fellow Master Food Preserver volunteer yesterday to teach salmon canning at the Siletz Confederated Tribes center in Eugene.  I was just the sidekick; Dale is our fish expert.  She teaches albacore tuna canning classes each year.  (Last year, with her help, I wrote up an illustrated guide to the process if you’re interested in trying tuna at home.)

Above: Dale in action and salmon, before and after (or after and before, rather).  When salmon is canned with the skin on, it can be layered in the jar to make really lovely patterns.  Some people made a checkerboard pattern, and others opted for their own creative designs.  Someone commented that it looked almost like a snake coiled in the jar.

Leaving the skin on can be kind of a pain if you want to de-skin the salmon before serving it, but the skin provides healthy fat and flavor.  Salmon doesn’t need to be deboned before canning, as the pinbones dissolve and the spinal column turns soft and edible, providing lots of calcium.  We left it up to the students to decide how they wanted to proceed, after learning how to fillet a hunk of salmon, for those interested in canning without the bones. Easy!

As far as canning classes go, it was probably the most plush gig I’ve taught at.  The organizer, Adrienne Crookes, had all the supplies arranged — from salmon to clean jars to cutting boards to newly sharpened knives — and she even taught the filleting process!  She did quite a bit of work to make this event a success, and it showed.  It’s always such a pleasure to be led by an organizational pro.

A lovely treat was a delicious lunch of salmon burgers made from previously canned fish, as we waited for the long processing to be completed.  The burgers were seasoned with parsley, onion, garlic, and bound with mayo and egg.

After lunch, we were joined by a project coordinator for health and cultural programming for the Federation, Sharla Robinson, who shared a presentation on native foods and reintegrating native plants into the diet.  She stated that Native Americans are particularly susceptible to diabetes and by returning to a more traditional diet, the risk would be reduced.  This is also suggested by a study cited in Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, in which diabetes rates plummeted for aboriginal tribes who switched from so-called Western diets high in sugar and refined grains to traditional patterns of eating and living.

For the Siletz Federation, there has been great interest in educating youth at culture camps, but this year marks the first year food is included as part of culture, Sharla noted.  From her poster, replete with photos of food gathering and preparation, I could see that preservation is a crucial aspect of educating new generations about food traditions.  For example, eels are trapped among rocks at the bottom of waterfalls, then smoked like jerky so they’re available for year-round eating.  Huckleberries, salmon berries (and manzanita berries (?!)) are collected for drying.  Fruits like plums, game meat, and fish can be canned.

Pictured above are a lovely jar of beet-red plum halves, a basket of herbs, two jars of deer or elk stew meat, a baggie of what Sharla called “ocean tea” made of a local herb, canned salmon, and giant mussel shells.

What’s ready for traditional projects now?  Hazel branches!  Sharla brought a large armful of switches that had been just cut, and the group of students were persuaded to help peel them for basket weavers.  The Siletz Federation has a language teacher, Bud Lane, who teaches basket weaving.  You can see one white peeled switch in the middle of the leafy pile. While they peeled, I graded exams.  Party pooper, I know. But I did get to see some lovely photos of finished baskets and basket caps, used as part of the ceremonial regalia (thanks, Adrienne!).

Soon enough, the jars were ready and we lifted them out of the canner.  I think we had a 100% seal rate, which wasn’t too shabby at all for a first-time group.  All the students were able to take home a couple of jars.  It was a great group and really fun, plus I learned quite a bit about native flora, fauna, and people.  Thanks, Siletz Confederated!  I hope you have us back to teach more classes soon!

and so it begins

The rhododendrons are coming, are coming!  This is the very first bloom on my rather ill-kempt, unidentified, monster shrub in the front yard.  It has pale pink, star-shaped narrow blooms that fade in the sun, but the buds are pretty, at least.  Looks like aphids are already congregating.

I have three more bushes that are in better shape.  The badly placed old ‘Virginia Richards’ in the back (below, from 2009), a salmon pink joy, is miraculously budded up after a year of dormancy and my best attempts to shade it.

The two ‘Scintillation’ rhododendrons in the front, which put out giant garish pink puffballs with yellow middles (below, from last year), will have another vigorous year, I’m sure. Of all the extant landscaping, these two rhodys were the only thing planted properly.  Thanks for making the only healthy plant the color of bubblegum, Previous Owners.

You should probably skip my house and go check out the amazing offerings at Hendricks Park, our 15-acre, rhododendron-filled oasis this weekend.

weed eradication program in eugene

Now my blog will get thousands of hits.  Ha!  But I mean garden weeds, and I believe I speak for every single gardener in this here town when I say three cheers for a sunny weekend (ignoring showers on Sunday)!

I spent hours weeding and seeding and pruning with my cohort.  Most of the beds but the big one in front were tilled with compost, and ready to go.  Everything looks pretty good for now.  The lilacs should bloom this week, and the tulips are in full swing.

Boris helped me by overseeing the process.  He models a Sambucus nigra ‘Black Beauty’, right.  Elderberries to come!

I really love this time of year.  Guess it’s good that it’s raining again, or I’d want to be out there again today.

of mortar, sandwiches, and feline elijah: passover 2011

Chag sameach, happy Passover, and all that.  Yes, that’s a knob of ginger standing in for the shank bone.  It’s brown and elongated, no?  For bitterness, we have a slightly mauve maror, since I added a bit of pickled beet as filler to the hand-harvested horseradish, and arugula flowers.  Karpas is from my healthy parsley crop. The haroset is a properly leaden mortar (oops).  Still, not bad for a relatively quickly organized pseudoseder.

Proof of participation, Ikea miniature whitefish dumplings.  Guess who was seduced by the idea of EZ cocktail gefilte fishies?  (Alas.  They tasted slightly better with the carrot salad on top.)

And my friend’s almond torte wasn’t bad at all, and not the least bit dry with a sauce made of last year’s frozen sour cherries.  And yes, that’s a meat-based white dollop there.  Shh. Don’t tell Elijah.

Actually, this year was a little bittersweet.  One year when we lived in a tiny house in Berkeley where the dining/living room opened up to the front porch, we opened up the door for Elijah at the appropriate time in the seder.  And lo, there sat our beloved cat Sylvia, who made the grand entrance of her life, to the delighted exclamations of everyone present.  This is the first year she hasn’t been with us in person, as she passed away in November.  A little part of me thought she might be there when I opened the door this year.  So indeed, she was.  And will be next year, too.

Passover Menu 2011

  • Bitter tears and spring greens
  • Deviled eggs
  • Bread of affliction (with and without freshly ground horseradish)
  • Hillel sandwiches with pear-date-almond and apple-pear-walnut-pine nut mortars*
  • Miniature Scandinavian gefilte-fish disks d’Ikea topped with carrot salad**
  • Braised beef brisket à la mode de Joan Nathan, tomatoes and red wine
  • Roasted fingerling and butterball garlic rosemary potatoes with crunchy potato croutons***
  • Asparagus with caperberries and bay leaves
  • Foraged arugulas, fennel fronds, and pine nuts with apricot vinaigrette
  • Almond-meal torte with local sour cherries****
  • Evesham Wood Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Coffee

*why is it on this night only do we eat Hillel sandwiches?

**why is it on this night only do we serve garbage fish from cans and jars to complement those delicious sandwiches?

***why is it on this night only do we gild the lily?

****why is it on this night only do non-practicing Jews omit the crème fraiche?

niblets: multicultural edition

So much to announce, and I just haven’t had the will to do it.  Started this post three times today.  Bad news, since it’s still freezing cold and wet and I have fullblown spring fever.  So I’ll keep it short.  Consider it the World Literature Survey of dining niblets from your favorite home town.

– Japanese.  Go to Kamitori on 11th and Willamette.  It’s worth every (inexpensive) penny. Go especially if you’re into real Japanese food, not just chicken teriyaki, even if they do have that, too.  And tell the chef how much you appreciate the authenticity (but it’s ok if you recommend axing the krab salad in the kaisen (left).  I’m actually ready to come to blows if someone ruins this place.

– Lebanese.  Go to the new Middle Eastern Deli at Plaza Latina on 7th a few blocks east of Chambers.  She’s still working out the kinks and setting the menu and prices, so go and defend your favorites.  I found the tabouli (top photo, with various pies, hummus and tahini) particularly good — the parsley is not smushed to soggy bits with a heavy knife and loaded down with bulgar wheat.  Just as it should be.

– Jewish.  Tomorrow night starts Passover.  Got my brisket in gear and am cooking it as we speak, a Joan Nathan recipe.  I hope this is a good compromise between my two recipes, one called “Traditional (If Dull) Passover Brisket,” and the other one, “Cranberry Brisket,” which I love but has been vetoed by the no-fruit-with-meat half of my relationship.  This half also absconded with one of the apples for the haroset, so I made apple-pear-haroset.   Yeah, I know.  But it’s supposed to be like mortar in texture and color, right?  Right.  I’m glad to hear that Humble Beagle will be serving matzoh ball soup all week, since it’s the one thing we’re not making due to the hilariously quirky mismatched dietary profiles of my guests.

– Thai.  I perused the menu and spoke to someone who had the authority of an owner at Sabai, a new “Pacific Rim” or “Thai Fusion” restaurant in Oakway.  I’ll be nice and just say these two terms make me shudder unlike any other.  The good news is (at least for fans of the popular American-style Thai Ta Ra Rin restaurant), is that the menu is very similar to Ta Ra Rin.  The authority figure told me that they were planning to introduce Indonesian dishes, which would indeed be a nice addition to our local ethnic cuisine.  I’d just really like to see 1) serious attention to reducing the sweetness of all of the dishes if the menu is indeed based on Ta Ra Rin’s; and (2) offering non-sweet dishes with a vinegar or even just dry-fried, salt-and-pepper profile.  All Americans don’t like Thai food that’s achingly sweet.  Indonesian food can be way too sweet too, so it’s going to be a rough ride.

– White.  White flour, that is.  Excellent article about Tom Hunton (right, at the Saturday farmers market) and Camas Country Mill in the Register-Guard today.  It discusses the mill engineering and Tom’s decision to diversify from grass crops to wheat and other grains, including teff.  The article acknowledges the liberal-conservative partnerships that can (and need to) happen with food system changes, and shows how Tom’s making it work with his partners. Way to go, Diane Dietz!  That was the best food reporting I’ve seen in the R-G in a while.  So why was it in the Business section?

– Mexican.  Still loving taco night on Sundays and Mondays at Belly, and hope the owners have a good time scouting out new menu items on their vacation down south.  The restaurant will be open only for taco nights this week.  But a small grump: I am sad the tortillas are now being served cold instead of nicely griddled.  Can we change that?  I fully realize that after a couple of margaritas I don’t notice anymore but still.  Shh.  And kudos to Belly for being mentioned in visiting LA food critic Jonathan Gold’s twitter — he was in town for a UO School of Journalism award and said the tripe and trotters on toast gave him “a lot of happiness for $8.”  I like a man who gets his cheap thrills in organ meats.

– Polish.  And speaking of organs, I bought my Easter kielbasa a couple of weeks ago at Benedetti’s Meat Market.  Fresh kielbasa is always hard to find in Eugene, so go check ’em out.  You can bet your dupa I’ll be making my Easter soup this year. Our cup overfloweth with fresh eggs, since the farm chickens have decided the weather be damned; it is spring!

– Italian.  But if you’re not in the mood for Polish Easter soup, check out Sfizio for their Umbrian regional dinner on Easter Sunday.  I haven’t seen the menu, surely by some fault of my own, since they usually send ’em by now.  But it’s a good option to staying home and eating too many Cadbury eggs and jelly beans.

– Fermentation Nation.  Thanks to everyone for coming out to the Master Food Preserver class on fermented foods.  We had about three dozen attendees for the demo, and everyone was so enthusiastic and full of questions it really energized all of the teachers.  We really had a great time discussing kefir, yogurt, kim chi, sauerkraut, cider vinegar, chocolate, and sourdough bread.  The next class is on emergency planning and we’re offering a canning basics series this summer after the produce starts to come in to the market.  We’ll be teaching pickling, jamming, water bath canning (with tomatoes), and pressure canning in four classes for $40 (see a full schedule of courses here).  Yes, that’s $40 for four classes TOTAL, not each.  We’re also starting to connect with other MFP programs nationwide on our Facebook page.  Follow us and let us know what you’re interested in canning and cooking this summer!

So how’s that for short?  Don’t forget, I am a professor.  We don’t do short.

she thinks of all the lips that she licks

Mmm… grilled halibut in a kimchi juice marinade and sesame oil reduction, served with gingery bok choi.  The ne plus ultra best way to use up the dregs of your homemade kimchi.  Think about it.  Spicy sour souse studded with garlic, ginger and green onion ?  No brainer.

My husband is crafty.  He calls from the kitchen, “hey, I’ve got some fish!” and waits.

I am laid out in bed with my feline sidekick, watching old Elvis Costello clips on YouTube, as I do when I’m utterly exhausted and searching the internet for reasons to endure.

Then I think, hmmm, he’s going to ruin that fish by underseasoning it.

I holler out, “what are you putting on it?”

He usually mutters something noncommittal about lemon juice.  Then, with all the will in the world, I usually roll out of bed and straggle into the kitchen in a foul mood.

Ah, but a mood that is elevated immediately by cooking.

See, crafty!

But I’m too tired and it doesn’t work this time.

He comes into the bedroom and shakes a bag of mini bok choi at me.  “Is this still good?”

Another deft ploy.  I am faced with the choice: Elvis Costello live in 1978 or decomposing bok choi that might meet a poor end in 2011.

There is no choice.  They call her Natasha when she looks like Elsie.

Dinner is served!

extra extra read all about it: two eateries one day

I am so excited to announce not one but two new joints in town that have received rave reviews in the mere hours they’ve been open:

1)  “Are you tired of American style Sushi?” asks Kamitori Sushi’s website.  I am, indeed. They promise Japanese-style sushi and noodles — simple preparations, hardly any gimmicky toppings.  Real bonito-and-kelp dashi broth for the noodles.  Mackerel pressed sushi — I don’t think I’ve ever seen this on a menu in America.   No mayonnaise crap with fifty kinds of fish deep fried and soused in teriyaki sauce.  Eugene, this is big, big news.  In fact, it might be the best restaurant news I’ve heard in years.  10th & Willamette.

2) Green gumbo, potted chicken, kale chips and more at Party Cart, the newest food cart in town.  Three people in the food industry gushed about it this morning after its opening last night.  Run by a baker and a cook: a food cart marriage made in heaven.  I don’t think they have a website yet, so here’s the Facebook.  28th & Friendly, in the Healthy Pet lot.

garden report!

You know you want it, baby.

My horseradish, confined to its pot above, is beginning to stir.  I only had to dig tubers under stone pavers once to learn that lesson.

After a chain of emails, I discovered that the three gooseberry plants I bought were ‘Poorman,’ and I’m so happy that’s the case.  A good plant and a good berry.  Next year I’ll be asking Retrogrouch if he’d like some gooseberry [,] fool.

I’m a new and zealous supporter of Ribes, the plant genus of discrimination.  The federal government outlawed gooseberries and currants in the early 20th century because they helped spread white pine blister rust, so the taste of these native fruits was largely scrubbed from the American palate.  We need to change that.  Though the federal ban was lifted in 1966, not until 2003 was growing made legal again in states like New York.  I planted two red currants last year and had a handful of berries.  This year should be much better.  May also get some black ones in there this year yet.

Artichokes and two of the three rhubarb are up and unfolding their big leaves.  No sign of the asparagus yet, though. The third rhubarb is new.  Maybe it’s still getting acclimated.

Lovage (above) is already knee-high; tarragon has returned like the hope of sun.  Fennel and wormwood going like gangbusters.  Some fennelseed found its way into the rows.  Not quite sure how/who, since it isn’t the fennel vulgare that dropped its seeds but rather bronze fennel and Italian bulb fennel.  But who is compaining?  I’ll move it to the front in a difficult place as an ornamental.

Blackcaps, raspberries, and tayberry canes are leafing out.  I expect a good crop this year.  I added three new ‘Meeker’ canes, which have been slow to take off.

I only have three or four ‘Seascape’ strawberries left, but all of the 2-3 dozen ‘Benton’ starts took, so after plucking off the blossoms this year, I’ll have a better crop next summer.

Two varieties of arugula are growing well, as is the ‘wild’ kale.

Potatoes and onions are doing their thing, too.  Herbs are herbing.

I’m excited about the front bed expansion.  It’s the hottest part of the yard, so converting the lawn over to garden was long overdue. I’m trying to decide whether to put in raised beds, or just let it become my squash/pumpkin patch.  Luckily, there’s time to decide.

What are you growing?

pickled chard stems

Besotted with chard, of all things, I joined the long line at the Lost Creek Farm stand last weekend.  Who could resist?  But wait…of all the spring greens, chard is my least favorite.  I dislike the leathery texture of the leaves and the muddy aftertaste that often accompanies the cooked product.

But I had tasted chard stem pickles, and I was on a mission.  When I saw the giant bunches of chard with their long, gorgeous stems as long as a baguette, I knew the moment had come.

Don’t throw those chard stems away!  Chard stems, julienned into matchsticks that are as tall as the jar in which you’re pickling them, can be quick-pickled in the refrigerator.  You don’t need any special canning equipment, just a refrigerator and time.  Do use a freshly washed container that can withstand boiling brine (e.g., tempered glass or plastic, non-corroding metal).

What do they taste like?  Nothing you’ve ever had.  Try this.  Eat a bit of raw chard stem.  See how it’s kind of crunchy, kind of watery, and kind of fresh?  Now imagine it actually tasting good — exploding in your mouth with vinegar and spices.  That’s what a chard stem pickle tastes like.

This recipe makes enough brine for two pint jars.  I made one pint of chard stems and one of carrots.  Both were delicious.  Since they’re refrigerator pickles, you can experiment quite a bit.  Onions? Fennel? Brussels sprouts? Daikon? Tiny Turnips? Name your poison.

This recipe is adapted from one circling the internets from Gramercy Tavern in New York.  I rearranged the ratio of water and vinegar, and changed the vinegar from rice wine, which I find very harsh, to the more mild and complex white wine vinegar.  I particularly like fennel seed in this pickle, so I make my own spice mix.  Don’t omit or reduce the sugar, since it adds an important balance to the vinegar.  The pickles don’t really taste sweet at all.

I tried to make fermented chard stem pickles, too, but after five days they’re just barely bubbling and have turned a horrid mauve.  They taste like muddy, salty, waterlogged chard stems.  So stick with the refrigerator pickles.

Pickled Chard Stems

Yield: 2 pints.

  • As many chard stems as will fit packed tightly into 2 pint jars (1-2 bunches, depending)
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pickling salt
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seed
  • 1/2 tsp fennel or dill seed
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp brown mustard seed
  • (Or use a tablespoon of pickling spice, divided, instead of the spices above)
  • 2 bay leaves

Trim the leaves off the chard stems.  Rub the stems under running water to remove all traces of mud.  Julienne the stems, creating batons that are almost as long as the height of your jar and rather thin so they’re delicate, not formidable.  The shape really makes an impact on the edibility of these pickles.

Wash and sterilize two pint jars (I pour boiling water into the newly washed jars, or you can take jars immediately out of the dishwasher.)  Combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt and spices in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt.

Place half of the spices in each of the jars.  Pack chard stem batons as tightly as possible into the jars.  Pour boiling brine in jars.  Let sit on counter until cool, then refrigerate for at least a few hours before eating.  Pickles will keep with excellent quality for about a week.

chefs’ night out 2011

I attended the sold out Food for Lane County fundraiser, Chefs’ Night Out, last night, and was so happy to see many of the restaurants, catering outfits, wineries, and breweries in town represented.  See a video from KVAL documenting the night here.  They were projecting that they’d raise over $60,000 for food support for the hungry in Lane County.  Hope they exceeded that goal!

Some of the bites were fanciful, like the savory bite-sized waffle cones with meatballs dished up by King Estate, one of the sponsors of the festival.  Hole in the Wall Barbecue took it to the next level (you decide which level) with their Ducks-baseball-hat-wearing barbecued pig.

Some of the best bites included three in the main lobby, Red Agave’s red snapper ceviche (which would have won my Best Bite had I been a judge) to the left on the red print tablecloth, Sfizio’s 3-year prosciutto- and speck-bedecked grissini breadsticks, center, and Field to Table’s “pork and grits,” which was a creative interpretation of an old classic: pulled pork and melty leeks on a polenta cake.

My teacher heart was warmed to see the culinary school at LCC in attendance in their spiffy chef whites, proudly displaying their “Lane” ice sculpture (above) and the pork rillettes on handmade biscuits with cornichons and a slice of their truffled sausage.  The MLK, Jr. Education Center Culinary Arts Program held their own, as well, serving up delicious mini fish tacos and little noodle nests with some kind of meat ball whose details are now hazy due to gorging and drink.

Other bites I very much enjoyed (either eating or looking at after I was full), in no particular order:

  • Bendistillery: grapefruit basil gin cocktail.
  • Skinner’s at the Hilton: chorizo mussels (for catering?! But they worked).
  • The Vintage: spicy passionfruit margarita (I usually avoid these things, but this one wasn’t sweet and had a nice slow burn on the spice).
  • Mookie’s Northwest Grill: foil-wrapped individual ribs (I’m a sucker for shiny).
  • Market of Choice: smoked tomato on goat cheese in little tartlet cups; simple, elegant.
  • Vanilla Jill’s Frozen Yogurt: Carrot cinnamon!
  • Heidi Tunnell Catering: homemade ricotta on bruschetta with a slice of bacon.
  • Ax Billy Grill (go DAC): crab bruschetta with an avocado corn salad (nice and light in a room full of heavy meat choices, too many sliders, and rillettes).
  • Rabbit Bistro: boar rillettes — Best Rillette.
  • Sipping Dreams and King Estates: drinking chocolates.
  • Amity Vineyards: 2008 Pinot Noir.

What did you like?