ozette potatoes and a sauce from garden herbs

IMG_8647I bought some delicious, glossy PNW-native ‘Ozette’ potatoes from Turnip the Beet Farm at the Lane County farmers market on Saturday.  I’ve written about them before, and think they’re fantastic for the locavore and armchair anthropologist.  They taste good, too!  As far as I know, Turnip the Beet is the only farm that produces them around here.  Farmer Lela says it’s the second crop of the year and they should have them at the next couple markets.

I like the Ozettes because they’re waxy and flavorful, so they make good fried potatoes and potato salad.  Or simply boil them and serve with the brilliant German green sauce, Grüne Soβe (or in the dialect of Frankfurt, Grie Soß).  It’s more of a spring thing, but if you’ve got a burgeoning herb garden, it’s a great summer dish.  All you need is seven herbs, a binder (e.g., sour cream) and something sour (e.g., lemon) and a little mustard.  The herbs that are traditional are sorrel, chervil, parsley, borage, burnet, cress and chives, but there are many variations.  Why not make a PNW herb blend?  I’ve seen basil and dill and marjoram included in some recipes, even.  Here are a few variations:

Mine was made with my very thick homemade sour cream (read: too thick for this sauce), a little milk to thin it out (bad idea, as it de-emulsified the fats), wine vinegar, mustard, and the traditional herbs minus cress.  Sorry about the poor picture, I was hungry.

I’m particularly excited about these potatoes because they represent yet another young farmer couple who are making a go of it in Lane County to bring us heirlooms and unusual produce, produced in a sustainable and labor-intensive way.  They’re worth supporting.  Even better, they just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign for new greenhouses, so they’ll be able to extend the season in the future.  Congratulations!

 

 

 

 

german wine dinner joy

IMG_3034We had some scrumptious wines at Marché recently.  If you are someone who sticks safely to Oregon Pinot Gris or finds comfort in the red side of the wine rainbow, I understand; I really do.  But over the years, I’ve started hungering for more, and the odd poetry of some of the more interesting whites has grabbed me and won’t let go.  This is scary, of course, because a wine habit attaches to one’s pocketbook, and my purse always seems to have a hole at the bottom.*

Ewald Moseler, for those of you who don’t know, is a godsend.  He’s a distributor who has been importing German and Austrian wines and educating Americans from his base in Portland for almost thirty years.  Ryan managed to coax him to come down to Eugene for one of Chef Crystal Platt’s wonderful special tasting dinners.  This was an unusual move, as wine dinners usually feature a label or a type of wine.  But well worth it.

To welcome in spring, try a dry Riesling. I can’t emphasize this enough. The color is perfect for the season, a little neon-greenish, almost highlighter yellow.  The characteristic smell of fresh little flowers and honey and pear — wrapped in PVC — will shake you out of your complacency.  If the fetish appeal doesn’t grab you, then think of it this way: this wine is a sweet and obliging servant, kind of like a French maid. In PVC. Oops, I’m back in the fetish stuff again, sorry.  So let’s just put it like this: Riesling usually features a strong acid component that balances out the gentle sweetness, acting almost like a cleaning crew for sugars in the wine to enliven your palate.  Which is perfect for spring, no?

IMG_3019We tried three beautiful Rieslings at the tasting dinner:

(1) a bubbly one (!) called Wingut Diehl Riesling Sekt Extra Trocken Roschbacker Rosenkränzel from Pfalz (2009) with pork rillettes and roasted bone marrow toasts drizzled with rose hip jam (above);

(2) a dry (Trocken) Selbach “Blauschiefer” from Mosel (2011) with a perfectly browned sea bass chunk over bold green miner’s lettuce and little asparagus with a grassy swath of nettle purée (below — the picture doesn’t do it justice, sorry);  and

IMG_3025(3)  A deep, intense dessert Riesling:  Christoffel Jr. Riesling Ausles “Ürziger Würzgarten” from Mosel-Saar-Wuwer (1999), a wine that could have been only better with a longer finish so I could have it in my mouth for but a few more moments.  It was served with an apple crostata accompanied by a brilliantly paired unsugared buttermilk mousse.

IMG_3033O how I wish Crystal were able to integrate more experimental dishes into the rather conservative Marché menu, since her food is fabulous and the way she integrates seasonal ingredients, often foraged or PNW-oriented, could renew and envigorate many of the French bistro classics.  I think she’d soon gain a following of her own, not to mention we need to support talented, innovative women in the high-end restaurant biz.

And the pairings were so good.  The entrée of braised then fried boar over red cabbage and what seemed like a lardo and mustardseed mayonnaise special sauce to me, paired with another Wingut Diehl wine, this time a Gewürztraminer Kabinett from Pfalz (2011) might have just transformed me into a Gewürz drinker.  It certainly did nothing to quell my yearning for Central European food.

IMG_3032The only almost miss of the evening was the dish served with the only red, the only Pinot Noir (!) of the evening, an example of how climate change is allowing wine growers to put in grapes farther north than ever.  Morel mushrooms mired in a potatoey swamp of purée, with wild vegetation and flowers growing up around it gave off an Oregon rainy winter vibe, but it didn’t seem to be grounded in anything.  Still, it was an interesting pairing with a Mayschosser Spätburgunder Trocken (2011) that was unlike either our Oregon beloveds or the California pinots we spurn.  Pinot aficionados might want to take note that Spätburgunder is the German name for Pinot Noir, and it is always Trocken.  The Ahr is the region in which you’ll find it now grown.

IMG_3029So all of this brings me to an unsatisfied conclusion.  Where can I get more of these delicious German wines?  Well, Ryan told me he’s bringing some in to Provisions, or you could visit one of the places Ewald services up in Portland by joining his email list.  Either way, they’re a must try.

Thanks, Ewald and Ryan, for making this happen!  Hope we can do it again soon.

*Note: I wasn’t paid a red cent for covering this dinner.  It was absolutely, totally, completely all my pleasure and I had to go home with a few extra bottles, too.  Growing hole in pocketbook.  Q.E.D.

german pickle juice potato salad

One of the nicest parts of pickling is the run-off.  Yes, the leftover pickle juice.  I’ve always kept a jar of dill pickle juice in the refrigerator for potato salads, deglazing, and soups.  And I use any leftover vinegar solution to quick pickle whatever vegetable is handy: carrots, cauliflower, chick peas…

My latest batch of senfgurken sweet mustard pickle had me perplexed, however.  I couldn’t really use in my normal way the half-cup or so of strong, sweet, spicy cider vinegar solution that was left after I had packed the jars.  But happy fate intervened, and threw some cooked Sweet Briar Farms pepper bacon my way.  I still had some wonderful red potatoes from my garden and some gorgeous whole grain mustard.  And best yet, I had ham from Del Del Guercio and Laughing Stock pork, traded for a melange of pickles and jams.  I knew I’d have to make German potato salad.

I didn’t peel my potatoes since they were small, but spent a few minutes picking out yucky strings of peels that had disengaged from the flesh.  Don’t recommend.

Enjoy with any pork product on the earth.

German Pickle Juice Potato Salad

Serves 4 as side dish.

  • 1/2 cup of sweet pickle juice run-off (no dill if possible)*
  • 1/4 cup very thinly sliced white onion
  • 2 lbs. waxy potatoes (I used ‘Red Desirée’), peeled
  • 1 T. whole grain mustard
  • 3-4 slices high quality cooked bacon, chopped

Cook and chop bacon, and set aside.  Peel potatoes.

Place peeled potatoes in pot of well-salted cold water, with enough water to cover.  Bring to simmer and cook potatoes until just a bit underdone.

Bring pickle juice to a boil with the onion and mustard.  Pour into bowl large enough for potatoes.

Remove potatoes from water and let cool only enough to handle.  Slice carefully and place in large bowl, stirring carefully to allow vinegar to coat after slicing a couple potatoes (adding hot potatoes to vinegar is to discourage discoloring and encourage liquid absorption).

Add bacon.  You might also add chopped green onion or parsley for color.

Let sit for a couple of hours for best quality before serving.

* Or, replace with 1/2 c. best quality cider vinegar, 3 T. sugar, 1 t. salt, 1 t. yellow mustard seeds. (Correct taste if the solution seems too sugary or not salty enough for you.)

senfgurken: vengeance will be mine!

Senfgurken, mustardy pickled cucumbers popular in Germany, are warriors in the battle of the summer squash.  Vengeance will be mine!

We all know the war — summer squash vs. you.  One day, you’re harvesting tiny cucumbers and zucchini, some even with their blossoms still on the fruit.  You look carefully every day or so, removing the young, tender squash from their vines.

But lurking under the trap doors, hidden down in the tangle of vines just out of reach, is a terrible creature biding its time until it can swell up and take over the garden: a monster zucchini or a yellowing, bloated, misshapen cucumber.

Overgrown zucchini can be used for quick bread, of course, but I’ve always felt slightly ashamed of the bloated cucumbers.  After all, what could I do with them?  Discarded, they are sending the wrong message to the rest of the plants, that one can escape the gardener’s scythe if one just hides long enough.  And then, if composted juuuuuuuust right (i.e., not correctly) your seeds will germinate and you will live again, muwahahahahahahh!

This vegetable revolt went unchecked in my garden until I discovered senfgurken, which magically transforms the yellowing cukes into mustard-spicy sweet pickles similar to watermelon rind pickles.  Indeed, they are less work than watermelon rind pickles, too, and you don’t have to collect a bunch of sticky, hard-to-peel rinds.

This year, I grew quite a few cornichons, which immediately slipped beyond my control.  Cornichons, tiny french cucumbers, do not fare well when let go:

Senfgurken time.

Use very yellow, very bloated, horrible-tasting, late summer cucumbers for this recipe.  My cornichons didn’t yellow beyond this point, but the pickling cucumbers did.  Any yellow-bellied cur of a slicing cucumber will be a marvelous martyr on the battlefield.

Oh, and the seeds?  Save them for planting next year, so the war can continue.  And then you won’t have to fund it with money for schools or public programs!

Senfgurken Mustard Pickles

(Adapted from several recipes, including Linda Ziedrich’s Joy of Pickling)

Makes 8-9 half-pints or 4 pints

  • 5 lbs. large yellowed (overripe) cucumbers
  • 1/4 cup pickling salt
  • 3 cups cider or white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pickling spices, separated into two equal piles
  • 2 tablespoons white mustard seeds, separated into two equal piles

Peel cucumbers, halve, and scoop out the seeds (save for next year’s planting). Cut into strips about an inch wide, and cut the largest pieces in half.  Salt slices, and soak overnight on the counter (or for 8-12 hours) until the cucumbers are pliable.

Drain the cucumber slices, but do not rinse.  Bring your water bath canner up to a boil and prepare your jars, lids and rings.  Since you will be boiling them for 10 minutes, you do not need to sterilize the jars, but do wash well.

Combine the vinegar, sugar, and half of the mustard and pickling spices in a medium-sized pot, and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat, then add about half of the cucumbers to the brine.  Let simmer for one minute.  Then remove the slices with a slotted spoon and place in the jars with the aid of a wide-mouthed canning funnel.  Once all the cucumbers are in the jars, fill to 1/2 inch from the top with the hot brine, including as many of the spices as you can.  Remove air bubbles in each jar with a plastic knife or chopstick, packing the slices down well, and rearrange any slices floating with their tails pointed upward and well out of the brine.  Wipe jar mouths and adjust lids and rings.

Add the remaining spices to the leftover brine, then bring to a boil again and repeat procedure with the rest of the cucumbers.

Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  (Linda Ziedrich suggests low-temperature pasteurization for 30 minutes at 180 to 185 degrees as an alternative to boiling.)

Once cool, check the seal on the jars and refrigerate any that did not seal.  Remove the rings and keep jars in a cool, dark place for 3 weeks before eating your pickles.

Serve with ham or other cured meats, pork roast, sausage, or cheddar cheese.