on dasher! off to the lane county holiday farmers market, tout suite

The news team at Culinaria Eugenius (consisting of one hardworking, underpaid indentured servant/culinary assassin) brings you this special update in the midst of our 24/7 Taiwanese food blogging marathon:

Go. Right. Now. to the Holiday Farmers Market at the fairgrounds.  Yes, it’s inside.  Because next Saturday is Christmas Eve, this is the last weekend.  Highlights include every single root vegetable, the first Oregon truffles, a bumper crop of candycap mushrooms and some fine hedgehogs, and apples and Asian pears by the box at the River Bend Farm booth (and they still have cider, too!).

As for superlative holiday presents: my favorite popcorn in the world, ‘Dakota Black’ heirloom corn from Lonesome Whistle Farm, and the new bean soup mix from Camas Country Mill.  The soup mix includes all the legumes and pulses grown by the Huntons, plus some of their grains, like barley.

Another gift option: smoked pepper jelly from Pure Peppers.  The pepper jelly is from the same folks who brought us Hell Dust smoked pepper flakes, and is without question the finest, strongest pepper jelly I’ve ever had.  Like Lonesome Whistle and Camas Country, the Peppers grow and dry their own product in Junction City. The smokiness in the pepper jelly transforms ye olde pepper-jelly-over-a-hunk-of-cream cheese appetizer that everyone loves into something quite special.

Another very worthy pepper product to consider — the single-varietal smoked pepper powders from Crossroads Farm (first image).  I’ve been using their full-strength smoked paprika for months, and it’s even better than the stuff a friend brought back from Spain.  This year, Crossroads has expanded their line from paprika to cayenne, padron, guajillo, Hungarian, chipotle, and others.

And speaking of smokiness, Brie-berry with Smoked Almond ice cream from Red Wagon Creamery.  Every single one of you should consider the cheese and ice cream combination that’s sweeping the nation (or should be). This stuff is no joke, folks.  Red Wagon excels at the salt-sweet connection, and their cheese and fruit flavors hit it out of the ballpark.  I never buy pints of ice cream, but I ended up taking home this irresistible cranberry-studded, smoky, crunchy, rich, decadent, tangy, slightly savory Christmas miracle.

Other flavors for the less adventurous are also terrific.  (I stole this photo off their Facebook page so I can show you today’s offerings.)  They’ve just started using organic Guittard chocolate sourced from local company Chocolate Decadence, so that’s a good bet.  Sweet Potato and Cumin is better than a similar flavor I had in San Francisco last month.  The Lucy’s Cracked Candy Cane uses all-natural candy and doesn’t have the weird fake mint flavor in every other peppermint ice cream you can buy…and it also doesn’t pull a fast one and make you eat stevia with dried peppermint leaves, either.  Know what I mean?  Sure you do.

And if they still have ’em, grab up any remaining quinces and San Carlos Bocadillo membrillo quince paste at the Berg’s Organic Farm booth.  Quinces are a lovely addition to applesauce for, say, Hanukkah.  The membrillo, a Spanish delicacy and a downright smooth version of it, is made of quinces cooked down past applesauce texture, so it form a thick paste.  It should be cut into small slices and served alongside a cheese plate.  The classic combination is membrillo and manchego cheese, but any hard, decently tangy cheese works.  I’ve never seen this product offered locally with our own quinces, so it’s worth consideration for your holiday parties.

What did I miss?  Let others know what you recommend.

saturday farmer’s market opens, foodies go wild!

Welcome back farmers, we love you!  I was the only tourist with a camera I saw walking around, but no one seemed to mind.  A wild spring day, smiling washed-out winter faces.  We’re all Vitamin D deprived and hungry for green.  The colors were almost unbearably bright, almost toy-like, in the bright spring vegetables pyramidded up under the new white awnings.

Rocking a locally-made Archival Clothing tote bag, I sent a strong message that no vegetable was a match for me. I snapped up a bag of new carrots, some purple flowering kale, and young green and red mustard green fronds from Lost Creek Farm (the farm that suffered the freak hailstorm in June last year — they must have been pretty anxious this week), Russian fingerling potatoes, a big bag of salad mix, dried Fellenberg (Italian) prunes from Raynblest, beer sausages and some maitake mushrooms to make my Easter soup.

Corey, the owner of Field to Table and The Nosh Pit (the innovative world street food cart on 8th and Olive that features a different cuisine each week), was serving up Jamaican-inspired chicken hash with egg and nettle pesto.  Even though I was mesmerized by the dark yellow farm-fresh egg yolk, I snapped a shot of Corey (r) and his cook in front of their sign.  Lookin’ good, guys!

I was also really happy to see my fellow OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers at a booth, as well.  I had worked with Tim (l) on the hotline before, and we talked about the upcoming bond measure to Save Extension campaign for a few minutes.  It softened them up enough to allow me to take a picture.  Take one for the team, I said, and obligingly, they did.

Must have been the dazzle of my weird, lip-less smile.  (Hey, if I embarrassed them, I might as well embarrass myself.)

Some of the other delicious offerings included roasted vegetables and garlic from Canby Asparagus Farm, all manner of greens from Lost Creek Farm…

‘Easter Egg’ radishes and Russian kale from Hay Bales, Russian fingerling potatoes and leeks from Groundworks Organics (I think)…

and snow pea starts from the pepper lady.


I was so glad to see all of you, human and vegetable alike!

good gravy!

dscf3882Oh dear me, yum.  There’s an column in the works about small local meat farmers, but I had to share this one teeny picture of our Biancalana Pork Growers pork shoulder roast the other night.  Dave and Cody Biancalana are a father and son team (dad owns a popular Eugene garage) who started raising a pig as a hobby on their land in Springfield, and suddenly, they had a pork growing operation.

The pork is available at the tiny Saturday farmer’s market in the parking lot shared by Mazzi’s and Hideaway Bakery, and it’s delicious.  Their pepper bacon? I can’t even think about it because my drool will short out my keyboard.

Retrogrouch and I are working on all the cuts of meat they have, including a pancetta cured by Mazzi’s.  So far, so good.

But this is more about the gravy.  Graaaaaaaaaaavy.  I made the easiest, most delicious gravy the other day with pan drippings and sour cream, of all things.  Here it is:

Creamy Mustard Pork Gravy

Remove your roast and look at those beautiful drippings left behind.  Loosen the roast drippings by adding a cup or so of water.  Just plain water.  Put it back in the oven until it boils, and loosen up any stuck pieces with a wooden spoon.  Let it sit for a few minutes, then strain out the solids with a fine mesh strainer.  The liquids can go into a small saucepan.  Add a bit more liquid if it is really salty and a glug of verjus, vermouth, or white wine.  Bring to a boil.  Then, and this is the magic, take it off the heat.  Add a healthy glob (2 tablespoons?) of a stone-ground mustard.  Using a clean, large whisk, dip it into your sour cream container until you have about 1/3 cup.  Sure, you could use a spoon, but we’re being magic here.  Then whisk it into your drippings juice like mad until the white bits are incorporated and whole thing thickens.  Taste, and add a bit more sour cream if you like.

You can thank me later.  I accept gifts of bacon.

farm day at sweetwater farm!

Before I left for the weekend trip, I had the great pleasure to visit my CSA farm, Sweetwater Farm east of Creswell.  Creswell is a short drive south of Eugene, a small town and rural community nestled in its own little valley.  Farmer John and Lynn welcomed us with home brew of the regular and root beer varieties, a potluck, pizzas made in their brick oven (which sadly, I missed due to tardiness), and an herbalist table with minted elixirs of red clover and nettles. Lynn and I took the Master Food Preserver training program together, and I’m volunteering to help the CSA folks out with questions about how to cook with the vegetables in the shares.

The big joy of the 20-acre farm, of course, was the tour provided by Farmer John.  As I said, I was late, so I was fortunate that he was willing to do one last tour, and I happily tagged along, listening to an articulate, passionate disquisition on soil additives, crop rotation, experimentation with chicken feed and greenhouse rows, and all manner of things.  He showed us the bakery in progress, the lumber kiln, and the dank and mysterious mushroom hut, where shiitakes and oyster mushrooms bloom like pale, fleshy flowers.

The fields, immaculately maintained, are grouped by plant type.  The brassicas have their own area, the twenty-odd types of potatoes (some of which are pictured above) grow in neat mounded rows next to a field bursting with hard red wheat (pictured with daisy).  But where were the Yukon Gold potatoes?  Why, in the shares, of course!

Rows of Asian greens fill out another field, and garlic has its own real estate.  Tomatoes and peppers and herbs — really most of the hot weather crops — grow carefully in greenhouses dotted around the property.  Cardoons — cardoons!! — line the long driveway up to the farmhouse.  They are pictured here, the things that look like artichokes.  I had never seen a growing cardoon.  Farmer John said that in Italy, they bend the stalks and cover them with soil to get the blanched white color.  There were strawberries, some small fig trees and the beginnings of a plum orchard, and god knows what else.  The man even has an entire row of wormwood (Artemesia absinthia) and has faced — it was rumored — the green fairy.

We got to see an old Ponderosa Pine in a lovely wooded meadow, a relic, said Farmer John, of what the whole valley used to look like centuries ago.  Hundreds of chickens wander around several large fenced areas, and you can see how happy they are by the size and quality of their eggs.

Sweetwater Farm has been in operation for 20 years, and doing natural or organic farming the entire time.  They used to supply produce to high-end restaurants, but now they just grow for the market and the CSA shares, to maximize freshness and variety.  The vegetables are beautiful, and the breadth of what’s available there is really unusual for a small farm in the Willamette Valley.  I was glad I had the opportunity to visit; thanks John and Lynn!

And one last shot:  I love living in Oregon. Yes, this would be purple mountains’ majesty above the fruited plain…of amber waves of grain.  You know you want it.

greeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeenz!

While I’m waiting for my brisket to braise, I thought I’d share some of the gazillion pictures I’ve been taking of glorious spring in the Willamette Valley. Since I was in full-on tourist mode from my trip to other places I’ve lived, I only felt slightly strange snapping photos at my own local farmer’s market, which is a wonder in this small town and one of the reasons I love living in Eugene.  Each Saturday, from April to October, we get a full-fledged food, plant, arts & crafts market with ethnic cuisine booths and live music when our (recycled, post-consumer) bags are full.

Last week, it was tender yellow wild mushrooms and walnuts and lettuce. We found some delicious baby greens at Saturday market this week — kale sproutlings and a gorgeous head of something I thought was chicory, but it turned out to be young mustard greens!

The raw colors of grey-green and purple are so pretty, and the little yellow buds that all major brassica share are so yummy and peppery. I also couldn’t resist a big bag of tiny arugula leaves, my favorite salad green.

Of course, my impulse buys mean that I have not only the kale, mustard greens, and arugula, but also chard, spinach, romaine lettuce and cabbage waiting for me to actually cook with the stuff. Let’s see what I can do this week. In the meantime, rally on! Here’s how we do it in Eugene: standing waving placards on the Saturday Market political street corner, amid throngs of hackeysackers, drummers, spoken word open mike concoctions, homeless kids and tourists, all united under a giant marijuana leaf flag. Ah yes, Eugene in Spring.

sunshine!

Finally! It has been unseasonably cold here in the Willamette Valley, so everyone who isn’t a polar bear has been huddled inside for the past few weeks. Then, yesterday, the sun made its reappearance, foreshadowing the summer to come. Heatbunnies like me got outside and gardened with a vengeance.

I have a really old bed of purple bearded irises, like the ones that inspired Van Gogh, but unlike Van Gogh’s bearded irises, mine are overgrown and squashed into a place that made them unproductive. We don’t get many flowers, and that’s entirely ok with me, since I don’t much like purple anyway. In fact, I call my garden endeavors in this house The Great Unpurpling, since most of the landscape is purple or pink. Me, I like red. And here’s why. That’s me with my flowering quince. Yes, I want my landscape to match with my hair. Is that too much to ask?

But I’ll spare you my gardening complaints and just report that I made it through 3/4 of the irises, weeding and thinning and transplanting. (Yes, it’s late, but I was away in fall and didn’t get to properly winterize the garden.) It felt so tremendously delicious to be out in the sun. My assistant (see above) helped me by soaking up the Vitamin D and making sure no birds came too close to me. He also helped mow the lawn by eating a few errant tufts of grass, and he held office hours behind the shed.

What does this have to do with food? Well, mainly it is a defense of carnivorism. I have to prove that I can do plants. I’m feeling guilty because we went to the second Saturday Market of the season and mingled with the hordes snapping up strawberry plants, tender lettuces, bags of tiny carrots and little turnip golf-balls, dahlia tubers and cut daffodils, and we bought…

MEAT.  We came home with a bag of meat. Retrogrouch disappeared when I was musing over a fig tree, and reappeared, triumphant, holding Sweet Briar Farm peppered bacon and lamb chops. We visited the Deck Family Farm stand and took home their price list with info about their meat CSA. Then, some grilled vegetables in the very last stand caught my eye, and I went over and…

OMFG. Carnitas. A giant copper vat filled with oil, orange segments, bay leaves, cumin and hunks of pork shoulder, boiling away. Carnitas might be my favorite pork dish of all time. We bought almost a pound of the stuff and snacked away. Delicious. Not as good as it would be fried in lard, but still. I was so enthralled by the deep-fried meat I didn’t notice the name of the stand or anything other than an intriguing creamy asparagus salsa that tasted like guacamole but didn’t have any avocados in it. Mmmm…carnitas. The stuff didn’t last long enough for us to take pictures of it, sorry, but if you go to Saturday Market next week, be sure to stop and check it out with your own two meatilicious eyes.