truffles for the masses

I’m in the middle of writing a story for the Register-Guard on Oregonian truffles for Oregonians, which aims to demystify truffles for the home cook of modest means.

One of the many wonders of our world is a decent supply of winter truffles, both white and black.  And they’re cheaper than you might think in markets like Sundance and Market of Choice, if you don’t have your own conifer grove.  A little goes a long way.

There’s a lively discussion on my Facebook page about the question: if you had a walnut-sized black or white Oregon truffle, what would you do with it?  I’d love to hear your opinion.  If you’d like me to withhold it, I am happy to withhold your name.

I’ve got eggs just about covered — any other creative ideas?

Thank you!



fermentation basics recipes and resource links

Thanks for coming to today’s “Fermentation Basics” demo at the Fun with Fermentation festival, and a big thank you to Christina Sasser and the entire WVSFA team who worked so hard to make the festival a success!  I loved the mix of old and young people, farmers, hippies, yuppies, foodies, students, and parents. I was happy to share some of my techniques and tips for vegetable fermentation, and enjoyed talking to so many of you after the demo at the Master Food Preserver booth.

Ferments discussed in today’s demo:

Recipes with sauerkraut:

Some books and resources I trust and use often:

  • Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving (classic resource for basics of preservation, updated every few years)
  • Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich (includes fermentation recipes and many ethnic recipes not available in other collections)
  • Wild Fermentation by the King of Sauerkraut Sandor Katz
  • OSU Extension-Lane County’s full list of preservation publications (free .pdf downloads) – See esp. “Making Sauerkraut and Sauerkraut Recipes” and “Problems & Solutions: Sauerkraut” under the heading “Pickling”
  • My Harsch crock
  • The OSU Extension Master Food Preserver message line for class registration, preservation and food safety questions: 541-344-4885.  We no longer have a local hotline, thanks to budget cuts in Lane County, but in the summer and before the holidays there’s a 1-800 number you can call.  More information here.

fun with fermentation

What’s that smell?  It’s not you, it’s me.  I’m working on kim chi, sauerkraut, and fermented pepper samples for my live demo at the Fun with Fermentation festival tomorrow, Saturday, January 14.  The festival, a fundraiser for Food for Lane County and the Willamette Valley Sustainable Foods Alliance, runs from 11-4 p.m., and it’s a good one, with hour-long demos all day and many opportunities to taste fermented foods and beverages made with pride in Eugene, Oregon, and the surrounding area.  Fancy some tempeh, sourdough, kombucha, yogurt, or beer?

I’m particularly excited to share the stage with my fellow Master Food Preservers Elyse and Katya, and meet Aaron of Eugene’s latest, greatest microbrewery, Falling Sky. Check out the full schedule below, from the WVSFA website:

The Willamette Valley Sustainable Foods Alliance is pleased to announce the third annual “Fun with Fermentation” Festival. Join us January 14th, 2012 from 11 AM to 4 PM at the WOW hall.

Over 25 local natural foods businesses will be showcasing, demoing, and sampling locally produced cheeses, chocolates, coffees, wines, beers, kombuchas, breads, tempeh, pickles, and many other local fermented delicacies. Devour will be on hand serving a menu which will highlight fermented ingredients. The event has an educational focus centered on discovering the many ways that fermentation is practiced with many foods. There will also be a kids zone, raffle prizes, and beer/wine bottle sales downstairs.

Join us on the stage for educational lectures and demonstrations!
11-12: Yaakov Levine: “Fermented Foods: A Key to Healthy Digestion”
12-1:   Jennifer Burns Levin from Culinaria Eugenius & OSU Master Food Preserver:”The Fermentation Basics”
1-2:     Eight Nine Tempeh: “Live Quinoa Tempeh Demo”
2-3:    Elyse Grau & Katya Davis of OSU Master Food Preservers: “Fermenting with Dairy”
3-4:    Aaron Brussat of Falling Sky Brewery: “The Gifts of Honey: Mead & T’ej”

The event is a fundraiser for Food for Lane County and WVSFA. Admission is on a sliding scale of $10-20 per person, or $5 with 2 cans of food. Children 12 and under are free.

culinaria eugenius in seattle: meet and beet

Nothing quite like sharing an afternoon meal with someone whose company you’ve always enjoyed.  And yes, I meant my dining companion, not the beets.

Sitka and Spruce small plates for lunch.  Share ’em.  We opted for the delicious (compulsory, even) wafer-thin beet slices with an itsy bitsy bit too much feta, emmer, mint, and dukkha; a mezze tower made of a base of chopped carrot spread and nondescript hummus with delicious curly kale, red cabbage, and pine nuts atop; delicious Oregon anchovies, which were delicious because, of course, they are Oregonian; a study in beige — not-so-smoked golden trout, lightly pickled cabbage, potato, and crème fraîche with artful dill; and “raw” olives that were cured poseurs.  Detached service.  A slightly flabby white.  But we forgive you for the latter peccadilloes, just because we’re so happy.

culinaria eugenius in seattle: truffled and juicy



I’m at a loss for words, really. Life has sent me two orders of Taipei-based megadumpling chain Din Tai Fung’s juicy pork-truffle soup dumplings in one month. Just imagine this: minced pork with a spoonful of broth in fluted wheaten skins, all sealed up and steamed in delicious, juicy packages. Now imagine adding black truffle and some deeper, richer broth that has enough gelatin in it to make your lips slickly tacky, your salivation glands work overtime. It’s a dumpling so decadent it doesn’t require sauce or ginger, and they even bring you a clean plate and chopsticks to eat it.

Now imagine eating that twice. Thank you, life.

I will not even complain about being here at my discipline’s massive, angst-filled annual conference again this year.  It’s a dreaded moment in the cycle for many English academics, where all the interviews are held, tortured panels on arbitrary topics take place, and old colleagues and frenemies mingle among sweating graduate students who can’t afford to fly across the country during the holiday break.  You know why?  Because I have truffles perfuming my décolletage and gilded pork juice glistening on my lips.  I may look like a dumpling, but I have the blood of angels.

of peaches and penumbras

Food for thought.  When you blog regularly, or profess, or editorialize, or report, or essay, it is hard to turn off the tap, the flow of thoughts to words that organize themselves like little labor unions, and keep you on the straight and narrow. A picture like the one above, for example, of two Christmas presents, always presents itself as an opportunity to interpret.

It’s very hard to shut off the tap. If you write regularly, you feel the words constantly mobilizing, ready to fight against any injustice you take up as a cause, or any singular item of beauty or relevance or newsworthiness.  This is good work and important.

But sometimes the tap has to shut itself off.  That’s scary.  Because there’s so much to say.  And then you have a group of picketers ready to strike.

That’s when there’s everything and nothing to say.

At year’s end, when bloggers and reporters sum up the comings and goings of whatever it is they’ve chronicled coming and going, blogging should be easy.   The year-end posts make one feel closure on the year’s work and it provides readers with sense of time passing with progress.  Accomplishment.  Quantifiable successes.  An onward march.  How did the “to do” list fare? The resolutions? How many jars did you put up, what was your best magic with a cut of beef?  How many tomatoes were picked, and how many tomato pickers suffered?

What a year for the organized march.  I want to sever myself from it, frankly.  In times of sadness and grief, there just aren’t enough  words.  For the first time in a long time, I don’t want to write.

So to my labor union of words, I say let’s approach 2011 and its sadnesses in a different way.  I’m going to be on the side of those who resist the listmaking and cataloguing of injustices for a while.  Instead of trying to accomplish even more, I aim to resist and regroup.  Dare I say it?  I plan to do less this year.  Less enumerating of who killed the pork chops and more dreaming of peaches and penumbras.  Not sure how and not sure where it will lead, but I’m willing to walk all night through the solitary streets.  Send in the scabs!

This post has been brought to you by the letters F and U, the number 2011, and

A Supermarket in California
by Allen Ginsberg

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked
down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking
at the full moon.
In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon
fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at
night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!
–and you, García Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?

I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking
among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops?
What price bananas? Are you my Angel?
I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you,
and followed in my imagination by the store detective.
We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy
tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the

Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in a hour.
Which way does your beard point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and
feel absurd.)
Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade
to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be lonely.
Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automo-
biles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America
did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a
smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of
–Berkeley, 1955