express your love: oregon coast

IMG_8332IMG_8276 IMG_6045Express your love, my birthday horoscope said, it’s the key to a successful year.  So here are some images I love from my recent travels.  From top to bottom:

1)  One of several illustrations that are part of a history exhibit on the Tillamook Country Smoker at the Museum of People’s Art in Bay City, OR, an adorable little gallery devoted to celebrating Oregon’s labor that’s attached to a café and indoor produce and provisions market facing the ocean.

2)  Now defunct but still, like the Giving Tree, giving, the first Oregon Heritage Tree, a 17-foot diameter Sitka spruce at Klootchy Creek County Park in Seaside, OR.  Not only is the tree alleged to be the oldest standing thing in Oregon (estimated around 750 years old when it was partially felled by a storm a few years ago), it’s situated at the site of a grisly pioneer ptomaine poisoning in 1899 that wiped out a group of lumber scouts and their guide, the doughty Seaside entrepreneur Antoine Cloutrie. A good reminder: a storm is more than a hill o’ beans, but sometimes those beans, when canned improperly, CAN KILL.

And

3) A lone surfer girl pondering the rocks at Short Sand Beach in Oswald West State Park, between Cannon Beach and Manzanita, OR. Surrounded by water, drinking a glass of water, made of water.  How vitally we are of the seas that make up the majority of our planet.

 

 

sweetwater farm’s two new markets — and one partnership with dari mart!

Excited to learn that two of my favorite local farmers, Lynn Crosby and John Karlik of Sweetwater Farm/Good Food Easy CSA, are breaking ground yet again!  That’s Farmer John, above, at this year’s Fun with Fermentation festival.  Creswell-based Sweetwater Farm has two NEW farm stands, one in the Fairmount neighborhood at 19th and Agate on Sundays, and one in an unexpected place — outside the Dari Mart at 1243 Rainbow Drive (at Centennial) in Springfield on Wednesdays.

As excited as I am to see Sweetwater join together with a new local meat and poultry vendor Fair Valley Farm (Edited: some of the participants I listed earlier are not participating) at the Sunday market from 10-2:30, filling a void in our week full of markets, I’m even more excited about the Springfield market on Wednesdays between 4 and 6 p.m.

Why’s that, you say?

It’s not just because today, Wednesday, July 25, is their grand opening with cooking demonstrations and a kids’ activity area from 4:00-6:00 p.m…

It’s what this Springfield market represents: a growing movement to bring healthy and fresh local food to areas that don’t have easy access to fancy supermarkets and almost daily farmers markets like we do in South Eugene.  Dari Mart, a family-owned local company that also operates Lochmead Dairy, has almost 50 stores in the Willamette Valley, and we are so thankful for their interest in sustainability initiatives.  Last year, they formed a partnership  with several local non-profit organizations (including the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition and NEDCO (Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation) of Springfield) to improve good food access and fight childhood obesity in what are called “mixed-income neighborhoods.”  The organization spearheading the effort, Lane Coalition for Healthy Active Youth (LCHAY), notes that Dari Mart is a pioneer in this type of partnership, as there aren’t many mid-sized chain operators interested in connecting with local farmers and non-profits to introduce fresh produce and other healthy food to the convenience store.  You can learn more about LCHAY’s initiative called the Healthy Corner Store project, and more about Dari Mart’s efforts to bring fresh food to its customers, here.

Sweetwater Farm has been selling produce now for a few weeks at Dari Mart’s Centennial location, and Lynn tells me that it’s been going well so far.  Come make it even more of a success today, and enjoy their official grand opening!

And if your organization is interested in participating in a similar project or you’re looking to give these folks some welcome media exposure, LCHAY’s contact is Claire Syrett, Manager, Policy and Advocacy Initiatives, Lane Coalition for Healthy Active Youth (LCHAY), 541-682-4306, claire at lchay dot org.

benefit dinner at rabbit serves up boondockers and creative growers

Lovely fundraiser dinner for WFFC last night at The Rabbit. I got a chance to catch up with my friend and fellow Master Food Preserver Amy, of WFFC and Eugene Local Foods fame, and her husband Matt.  I met a tableful of new people, too.  I’ve been feeling a bit too cloistered, so it was nice to get out and talk to people from the community.

We started out with rabbit pâté bonbons, a fat cube of pâté frosted with foie gras, goat cheese, and some kind of delicious crunchies that may very well have been cracklins.  I am not ashamed to admit I ate about six of them.  Because seriously, WFFC dinner guests, I was NOT going to let those go back to the kitchen if you weren’t gonna eat them.

The tuna was seared and placed atop a nice little salad.  It wasn’t as good as, say, the silky watermelon gazpacho I had last week (and Chef Gil is letting me post the recipe — on to do list).  But it was bright and had enough nice acid to hold its own against the fresh albacore.

The Delaware chicken and Ancona duck were from Boondockers farm.  I had the pleasure of talking to Evan and Rachel, the farmers, and was really blown away by the conservation work they’re doing with the heritage breeds.  They actually breed the ducks on their farm instead of buying ducklings, and they’ve received a grant for an incubator and stock from venerable breeders.  Go ducks!  It’s really impressive and industrious.  They have been also working on other poultry species, including the chicken our chef served in a gallantine with an absolutely beautiful verjus mayo-ish concoction made with verjus, oil, and xanthan.  I was so happy to see the bed of red sweet and sour cabbage with the gallantine, what with my Eastern European fetish and all.

The duck was surrounded by small, jeweled vegetables from the other farm featured that night, Creative Growers, who provided most if not all of the produce.  I liked the addition of the slightly glazed chanterelle — it was like watching summer turn to fall right before our very eyes.  And don’t think we didn’t notice the various gizzardy bits in the sauce.  Pretty sneaky, delish!

The lamb, from Anderson Ranch at Long’s, was also delicious, a swirl of smoked jus jealously lurking around the real star of the show: a blackened, thick, smoked eggplant paste that set off the lamb perfectly. Oh, and the wines were really terrific, too, especially the Riesling matched with the gallantine.  The Lemelson was nothing to sneeze at, either.

And dessert was my fantasy, for the most part.  The pale rose caramel and glazed walnut were the only hint of sweetness.  A walnut cake and underripe seared peach were served with a peeled, marinated (I think) cherry tomato, like a full stop.

Thanks, Rabbit, Boondockers, and Creative Growers!  It was a wonderful meal and I so appreciate your efforts to improve the Eugene dining scene.  You’re doing fantastic work.

save lane extension — vote!

Dear Local Readers,

You’ve heard me go on at considerable length about my volunteer work with Lane County Extension, a branch of the Oregon State University Extension system.

Without the passage of the bond measure on the Lane County ballot that was mailed out today, Extension’s future is jeopardy.

In the past few decades, the service has weathered fiscal crises on the local, state, and federal levels.  It has managed to stay alive and continue to offer a hotline and walk-in service for local farmers and gardeners; year-round garden and food preservation classes; a food safety and preservation hotline each summer and fall, 4-H services for children; and a host of activities educating and sharing with local farmers, foresters, neighborhoods, businesses, and non-profit organizations.

And these services are necessary at a time of growing self-sufficiency and interest in local cooking and gardening.  Folks that you rely on for your organic vegetables at our weekly farmer’s market and horticultural knowledge at places like Down to Earth and Coastal Farm & Ranch are often educated by Extension programs — and rely on the service continuing for questions and referrals.  It serves low-income people in programs like the food pantry education demos.  It serves seniors in homemaker training groups.  It serves middle-class people who grow food and raise chickens in their backyard.  It serves suburban mothers, rural kids, academics, truck drivers, lawyers, bakers, and homeless people.

Extension serves as a sturdy hub in the network that makes up the Willamette Valley food shed. We respond to questions that are local to our area.  This is a service that is not available anywhere else: not online, not in books, not in magazines.  I say this as someone who is very internet-savvy and specializes in culinary literature and history.  When I discovered Extension in Lane County a few years ago, I realized that we had an unbelievably rare resource right here in Eugene: a place where knowledge about local food and horticulture is centralized.  It offers the community a place to exchange information and organize programming.

If Extension in Lane County were to disappear, a vast store of irreplaceable local knowledge and organized outreach would go with it.  It would be foolhardy in good times to squander this resource.  In challenging economic times, however, when people are growing their own food and cooking locally now more than ever, allowing Extension to dissolve without allowing the public to voice its support would be irresponsible.

Lane County Extension has been serving the community since 1914, and now serves about 65,000 residents.  It is so interwoven into the fabric of our local systems that service the food and horticulture needs of our community, it would be nearly impossible for any new organization to fill these shoes. It’s much more cost-efficient to keep the organization alive at a reduced level than to realize, a couple of years down the road, that we really did need and value the services it provided.

Nonsense about these services being better provided elsewhere  has been circulating by a group described in this week’s Eugene Weekly article on Extension.  I’m frankly disappointed that the writer didn’t investigate the issues at stake more deeply, but perhaps it is indicative that no alternative plan is reported.  I have been unable to find any information on viable “better solutions” than Extension, other than vague gestures about how non-profit organizations could be models for private fundraising.  Um, no.  I heard two Extension staff members discussing the 15-hour days they’ve been working because of personnel and other funding reductions.  Who would build and maintain the fundraising infrastructure?  Even though there is a big volunteer base (650 committed souls), an organization can’t depend on volunteers to conduct sophisticated capital and operations campaigns.  (Oregon State University responds to more of the claims and misinformation being spread by the opposition here.)

Please join me in saving Lane Extension. The Register-Guard has endorsed the bond measure, and we hope the Eugene Weekly will, as well, in its voter guide next week.

For those of you who have never used an Extension service, I challenge you to see for yourself if it’s worthwhile.

Next week, call the Master Gardener hotline (541-682-4247) during opening hours for free, research-based, local advice about a plant you bought at the market.  Sign up for a $5 Kitchen Quickies class on savory pies, nuts, pasta-making, summer sausage, or sauerkraut.  Drop by the office during opening hours (M-Th 10-5:00 with 1-2:00 closed for lunch) to have a weed identified.  Check out the evolving local garden calendar or events at Lane County Extension on Facebook and learn when to plant and what pests to look out for in Lane County.

For those of you who have benefitted from the services, please consider donating to the Save Lane Extension political action committee.  You are invited to attend the second Taste of the Vine wine tasting party at a great winery, Pfeiffer Vineyards.

Pfeiffer has delicious, unusual wines, including a spry viognier and a fantastic pinot gris.  The two pinot noirs are wonderful, and the merlot has the faintest hint of smoky bacon.  If it’s like the event I attended a few weeks ago, you’ll come away from the event with a complementary Riedel Oregon pinot noir glass, too.  I won’t go so far as saying you’ll be able to ‘evaluate wine like the pros,’ as the poster says, but you will have a great time with warm, charming people who will teach you the basics in tasting red and white wine.

If you are unable to attend the event and would like to donate, the Save Lane Extension political action committee is looking for any donations for advertisements and other campaign-related costs.  Now is the time to donate to let others know about Extension.  Please see more information about donating here.

Thank you for your support.

A proud Lane County Extension volunteer,

Jennifer Levin, Sole Proprietor and Editorial Muscle, Culinaria Eugenius

kitchen quickies classes: $5 a throw!

I’m so pleased to announce the new series of low-cost OSU Extension Master Food Preserver classes in Eugene.  As many of you know, OSU Extension is undergoing severe financial pressures with the reduction of local funding, and there will be a bond measure on the ballot this May to keep Extension alive. To showcase some of our offerings, the MFP volunteers are hosting a series of special, cut-rate classes this spring.  Please sign up right away if you’re interested!  Having an experienced cook available to provide tips you won’t find on the internet and answer your individual questions makes these classes invaluable.

I’m particularly excited about the pie classes, since I know I need some help on my pie crusts, and about the summer sausage class, since my husband loves this picnic classic, but each and every class will be excellent.

Which one am I teaching?  Why, thanks for asking! I’m offering the March 29 “Roll Your Own Sushi” class.  Sushi originated in Japan as a preservation technique and convenience food, and it’s now enjoyed around the world.  I’ve lived in Japan and have a degree in Japanese literature, but more importantly, I can roll a mean sushi roll.  We’ll discuss sushi’s history, then delve into buying sushi ingredients in Eugene, making perfect sushi rice and homemade pickled ginger, and hosting a sushi party.  You will practice rolling techniques for hosomaki (small rolls) and temaki (hand rolls, the ones that look like ice cream cones).  We’ll be using vegetable fillings, so vegetarians, vegans, and raw fish averse participants are warmly welcome.  By the time we’re done, you will want to host your own sushi party!

OSU Extension Service – Lane County
Master Food Preserver Program
Presents
KITCHEN QUICKIES

A new series of classes being offered for only $5.00 per class!!

March 29, 6-8 PM – Roll Your Own Sushi (taught by me!)

April 9, 6-8 PM – Perfect Pies and Pie Crusts

April 15, 9:30 – 11:30 am – Ancient Grains

April 30, 6-8 PM – Stuff It! Savory Pies

May 1, 10 AM- noon – Going Nuts!

May 7, 6-8 PM – Oodles of Noodles

May 8, 10 am – noon – Summer Sausage

May 13, 6-8 PM – Simply Sauerkraut

To register for any or all of these classes and find out more, just download the online registration sheet.

term done!

Finished the second of three quarters in the academic year yesterday.  My class, HC222: The Rise of Culinary Literature, exposed students to 18th century aesthetics, the Industrial Revolution, the birth of the women’s magazine, WWI and WWII rationing in Europe and America, fascism, colonialism, modernism, and the “postindustrial” American diet advocated by Michael Pollan.  The students were asked to study for the final by using the tools of the trade:

I felt a little ashamed at the grocery store buying some of these items (you guess which ones).  But a good time was had by all.

So, did you catch the mention of Culinaria Eugenius in Cheryl Rade’s article on Eugene food bloggers in yesterday’s Register-GuardWell, you can now! Perhaps you’ll be inspired to start your own local food blog, now that mine is fueled by Spaghetti-Os?

oregon hazelnut recall, ouch

This couldn’t be timed more poorly, with holiday baking and all, but it looks like salmonella was found at one of the shelling plants for Oregon’s hazelnut crop, in Newburg, OR. For more information, see the Oregon Department of Agriculture recall notice here.

As far as food-borne illnesses go, salmonella is usually relatively mild, unless an infected person is in one of the risk groups (infant, elderly, compromised immune system), and common as dirt.  Unlike e. coli, which has wider and more devastating consequences, salmonella can be easily caught and easily overcome.  It lives in the intestines of otherwise healthy humans and animals, and is spread through animal or human waste products coming in contact with food.  (It’s one of the reasons you are urged to wash your hands thoroughly after going to the bathroom.)

In a processing facility, where contaminated products are circulated and touched and redistributed, the possible contamination threat grows greater, of course.

Salmonella is always a small threat — you probably have some in your refrigerator right now.  At the very least, you needn’t fear your locally purchased nuts any more than you would any other crop, since vegetables, eggs, dairy, and everything else are always subject to salmonella.   The salad depicted above, for example, could be laden with salmonella if an infected animal made its way through the arugula patch, or the pears were handled by a worker who didn’t wash his hands, or the blue cheese was crumbled by a chef who was careless about cross-contamination with raw meat on the kitchen counter.

This recall is going to needlessly devastate sales of these nuts and local farmers dependent upon the income for the crop.  It looks like the salmonella they found was localized to one place and caught at the distributor.  The notice says that hazelnuts in the shell are still fine, even if you do buy them at a larger scale, but the vast majority of hazelnuts that are shelled are perfectly OK, too.  If you bought your hazelnuts from small farms, such as Freddy Guys or Detering’s, or micro-networks, such as the farm stand at River Bend Farm that sells nuts from a local orchard, you needn’t fear purchases or throw away your nuts.

One can also buy the highest quality plump, fresh, new-crop hazelnuts from middlemen like the OSU Extension-Lane County Master Food Preservers who accept nuts, shell and bag them, and sell them as fundraisers in the Willamette Valley.   We still have bags left!  Hazelnuts AND walnuts AND almonds, oh my — all from the 2009 crop and lovingly hand-shelled by our volunteers. The quality is better than anything I’ve ever seen. I would strongly encourage it, and not just because I’m interested in keeping Extension programs alive by any means necessary (and by the way, one of the services the MFP program provides is answering questions from the community about food safety recalls like this one).

So…if you are local and suddenly in need of hazelnuts because of the recall OR you have questions about nuts you have purchased, please call the MFP hotline and leave a message at 541-682-4246, or drop by the OSU Extension office next to the Fairgrounds (950 W. 13th, Eugene) on weekdays (M-Th, 10-1, 2-5).

Support your local hazelnut farmers — this is going to hurt in a year defined by hurt.