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Archive for the ‘Vegetable’ Category

Food Chain Philosophy, Pt. Reyes Farmers Market, Vegetable

September 26, 2011

Lettuce Love Local Lettuce

Gator Jack tasting Red Oak & Speckled Trout

Gator Jack tasting Red Oak & Speckled Trout

Lettuce tasting at 10am in a chilly feed barn on a foggy Saturday morning was all the rage this Saturday at the Point Reyes Farmers Market.

Compelling Chalk Signage contributed to our huge attendance

Compelling Chalk Signage contributed to our huge attendance

Here in West Marin, we are an intrepid bunch and made sure to add to the fun with a salad dressing competition and blind taste testing.

Great dressings come in unmarked jars!

Great dressings come in unmarked jars!

As for pairings, I recommend the tangy vinaigrette, that was in mason jar #1 and a cappuccino to go with your lettuce. Please note that two of the mostly commonly misspelled menu items are cappuccino and vinaigrette.

Chef's Booth CEO, Amy Whalen, has coffee two ways for her pairings

Chef's Booth CEO, Amy Whalen, has coffee two ways for her pairings

Back to pairings – I learned in the “Wine Class” at the Professional Food Writers Symposium at the Greenbrier (yes – I was a scholarship winner – just wanted to remind you in case you missed me on the front page of the Point Reyes Light) that not getting it terribly wrong is more important than making a perfect pairing. Tasting guests boldly paired mochas, macchiatos and chai tea with the anonymous dressings and lettuce.

Pairing #2 with some Speckled Trout - bit of honey, a bit of lemon

Pairing #2 with some Speckled Trout lettuce. #2 was a bit of honey, a bit of lemon!

Comments and impressions were requested and received as our guests grazed the lettuce offerings.

Literary lettuce musings

Literary lettuce musings

Pannise being picked and Red Butter beyond

Pannise being picked and Red Butter beyond...

And one of the best parts of the morning were the number of children who participated and wrote their opinions.  The thing most children are eating early on a Saturday morning is a sugary cereal, but not our little food rebels in West Marin. My favorite young citizen comments were on the flavor of Red Oak lettuce as “nondescript, but that is good” and it’s texture as needing “more dirt and sand.”

This younger citizen ending up making comments on almost every lettuce sheet!

This younger citizen ending up making comments on almost every lettuce sheet!

Seeing the young folks eating lettuce and climbing bales of hay in the feed barn warmed the cockles of my fog-chilled heart.  I remembered one of them coming by our chef’s booth several months ago and exclaiming, “Yum!  Kale!” as our local Chef Eleanor made her beautiful chopped kale salad with nuts and raisins.  I never dreamed I would hear a ten-year old say those two words together.

Lettuce soup?  Yes, yes, yes and hot to boot thank goodness!

Lettuce soup? Yes, yes, yes and hot to boot thank goodness! Peter Sheremeta stirs with a firm hand on the spoon.

Can Amy just do a lettuce tasting and a salad dressing contest?  No, she prepared and served something hot, but not until we had all had our fill of the lettuce on the table.  This is why she is our fearless food leader. She made a leek soup with lettuce stock a bit of butter and then added freshly chopped lettuce into the hot soup immediately before serving.  The lettuce flavor wasn’t overwhelmed by the leeks and gave a beautiful delicacy to the soup.

Marshall's favorite chef stirring the lettuce soup

Marshall's favorite chef stirring the lettuce soup

I did a salt and pepper tasting that could be used with the lettuce or our lovely lettuce leek soup.   I brought Ecuadorian black peppercorns that have a sharp, hot, robust flavor because they are grown on the equator in Valle Hermoso.  For some contrast I had Sichuan peppercorns that aren’t really peppercorns, but are the dried seed of a prickly ash tree.  They have a great woody aroma and tongue numbing effect similar to cloves nd a nice citrus note.  I love using this sparingly in more delicate soups and salads.  My third  pepper was  pink peppercorns which I ground gently in a mortar.  They are actually the berries of the Baies rose plant.  It’s as if a rose, a chili and a peppercorn had a baby – I adore using them.  For salts I had my coarse ground Baja hand harvested salts, a Portuguese sea salt that is similar to a French Grey salt, but because there is less rainfall where this salt is gathered it’s whiter than the French.  My third salt was a blend I get from a the Spice House in Illinois.  It is called Vulcan’s Fire Salt and makes things as disparate as popcorn and hot chocolate taste amazing.  It really popped the Lettuce Leek soup.  What’s in it – it’s a secret.  The most amazing salt was local salt from a group of West Marin youth who let local sea water sit in the sun until they had salt.

Robin's Salt & Pepper selections

Robin's Salt and Pepper selections

The finale of the day was the announcement of the blind taste testing salad dressing contest.  We had seven entries ranging from a variety of vinaigrettes to a ketchup-y “camp” dressing.  The winner was Eleanore Despina with a beautifully balanced simple vinaigrette. Second place was Anne Milne’s lemony, honey/mustard dressing.   In third place was Stephen Horvat with an herby vinaigrette that had wonderful texture and aroma.

Salad Dressing Contest Winner Eleanore Despina receiving her prize from Amy Whelan.

Salad Dressing Contest Winner Eleanore Despina receiving her prize from Amy Whelan.

I do want to say that every single dressing was unique and I actually liked them all.  I noticed the favorite of our younger attendees was Camp Hawk’s Bolinas Salad Dressing submitted by Hawk Weston.   It called for mixing together the following ingredients:

1/2 cup of catsup

3 TBL of lemon juice

3 TBL of sweet red chili sauce

1.5 cups Aioli

1 TBL Rice vinegar

2TBL Horeseradish

1 TBL Worcesteshire sauce

Lettuce tasting and Salad Dressing contests - remember the trend all started here in Point Reyes Station, CA

Lettuce tasting and Salad Dressing contest - remember the trend all started here in Point Reyes Station, CA

Pt. Reyes Farmers Market, Vegetable

October 26, 2009

Killer Kohlrabi

Gator Jack struggles with Kohlrabi

Gator Jack struggles with Kohlrabi

The most highly questioned vegetable at the 2009 Point Reyes Farmers market was kohlrabi.   Evocative of Lady GaGa (insert Ziggy Stardust if you are over 50) – it is visually confusing, yet utterly fascinating.  Kohlrabi once topped the charts with European royalty as a favorite vegetable. My VIP friends  (Vegetarians in Paradise ) predict a hearty comeback for this neglected member of the brassica oleracea family, more commonly called the cabbage family. FYI – bulbous base grows above ground along with the greens.

Don't be afraid - it's good for you

Don't be afraid - it's good for you

Armed with some great pointers from Sandy &  Dennis Dierks at Paradise Valley Produce, I brought two home with me and had quite the Saturday evening.   I cut the greens off the base and tasted the stem.  It had a gentle fresh broccoli taste with a hint of a horseradish bite.  I set the greens aside and peeled the skin off the kohlrabi base.  Mine were about the size of large apples and the outer layer of skin that needed peeling was about ¼ inch thick.  According to Dennis skin thickness varies with the size of the bulb.  The inside was similar to jicama in texture.  I sliced half of one of them to serve raw (sweeter and more subtle than the stem) – I diced the other half and sautéed it with a bit of McEvoy olive oil, sliced elephant garlic and a bit of kosher salt – amazing.  The other kohlrabi I also did two ways – The first half I boiled (along with some elephant garlic) and mashed them with olive oil and butter, this tasted great, but the texture was a little mushy.  I sliced the other half and prepared it like my scalloped potatoes – it was delicious – a schosh too moist for me – so adjust accordingly.  Here is a recipe that did work for me click on  kohlrabi gratin!  One tip I heard regarding moisture is to very lightly salt slice and let them sit on a paper towel for a bit before use in something like a gratin.

Kohlrabi with beautiful greens

Kohlrabi with beautiful greens

The greens were great!  I stripped the greens from the stems and julienned. I finely chopped the stems and sautéed them first with a bit of diced bulb and some minced elephant garlic – I added the greens (similar in thickness to collards) to the sautéed mixture and cooked about 15 more minutes adding water as they cooked down.   I removed half of the pan and served “southern style” with a dash of hot pepper vinegar – y’all it was good!  I took the other half and added a dash of agave nectar and a star anise and let it simmer a bit more – lovely.

Kohlrabi base

Kohlrabi base

With just a little effort I found kohlrabi easy to work with and amazingly versatile.  I can’t wait to get more  and work with it primarily raw this week.  I understand the greens also work well in salads and that you can make a great kimchi.  I’m thinking of using raw rounds as the base for canapés the way I might use jicama.  I think it would work really well with a creamy cheese like a Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam!

Farming, Pt. Reyes Farmers Market, Vegetable

October 22, 2009

The Ozzy Osbourne Potato

Jack adores the Ozzy tater mouthfeel

Jack adores the Ozzy tater mouthfeel

The first time Mammaw and Pappaw showed me how to “scratch for taters” – my little hands scribbled and scrabbled  around the base of the plant.   My eyes were squinted shut so I could “see” underground with my fingers.  When they wrapped around the first potato I ever harvested,  I felt like a miner with his first nugget of gold.  I had potato fever!   It was what we called an “Irish” or “New” potato – small, round and red.  Mammaw cooked it in a separate pot just for me.  She cut it in half  and drizzled butter and chopped fresh parsley over it.  I added a little salt and cracked black pepper and then I bit into what felt like a miracle.  That mouthful of joy had been hiding under dirt.

Multi-knobbed Ozette

Multi-knobbed Ozette

When Margie at Wild Blue Farm in Tomales first showed me an Ozette potato, I thought of that day.  This was the first year they had grown this rare new “rock star” of the potato world.   She told me a little bit about how it had been discovered.  They were also called Anna Cheeka’s potatoes, because she was the person from the Makah Tribe that provided the original seed for current farmers.  I was so excited about Ozettes and when I was on the KWMR Farm Report two days later, I began talking about this strange  potato with a fascinating story.  When Lyons, the host,  asked me the name of this amazing potato – I froze -  the only name that came to me was Ozzy Osbourne.  Lyons wanted to know how it got that name, I had to say that wasn’t really the name but that it was close – I knew that it sounded like that and it sorted of looked like the Ozzy Osbourne of the tuber world.  The host, Lyons,  quickly said, “well perhaps you can give us the real name and more facts next week,” and we moved the conversation over to kohlrabi – which reminds me of Lady GaGa – but I didn’t say that.

Sliced Raw Ozette Potatoes

Sliced Raw Ozette Potatoes

It’s not easy when you don’t fit the mold.  And that’s why we’ve lost so many food treasures.  Imagine boxing billions of potatoes that are shaped like the mutant offspring of Mr. Peanut.  And it was probably because Mr. and Mrs. Peanut had been forced to live 50 feet from illegally placed  high powered cell antennas in a corrupt city, until they could move to beautiful West Marin where their odd shapes were cherished – oops – wrong story – that would be me and my husband.

Whole Ozettes on plate

Whole Ozettes on plate

Back to Anna Cheeka’s wonderful legacy.  David Ronninger, who was a successful Idaho potato farmer, got the initial seeds from Anna in the late 1980’s and introduced it to the fresh market.   This was indicative of a movement around the world to preserve foods from our past that were being lost because they didn’t work well in the mass distribution model.   The story is that the potato was brought from Peru by Spanish exploreers to the Makah Indians at Neah Bay on Washington’s Olympic peninsula, where it has been grown since the 1700’s.

New DNA testing challenges the notion of Peruvian/Andean origin – just like the Jerry Springer Show!  Is Peru your Daddy or is it  some other Andean region?  NO!  Mexico or Chile are probably where the Ozette originated.  Testing also showed the Ozette has nearby cousin in Alaska – the Maria’s potato which has been growing in a Native Alaskan garden.  The Ozette is under the protection of Slow Food Seattle and you can find out more of the history by clicking here.  They haven’t yet updated with the DNA data, but if you want to look at the DNA technical abstract done by the USDA click here.  If you want me to stop with the technical data and tell you about how they taste….keep reading.

Ozette potatoes roasting

Ozette potatoes roasting

Ozette’s are a fingerling and not all of them are multi-knobbed, I just happen to love the look of those.  Most of them are single tubers and typical fingerling size – maybe a touch smaller.   The potatoes have a  cool curvy, wavy kind of look due to lots of shallow pyramid shaped eyes.  So even if their shape might make them anathema to the commercial potato industry, their taste makes them a darling to anyone who loves to cook or eat.  And for farmers and backyard gardeners , this potato is said to grow well in all conditions.  Tough and tasty.

Ozette potatoes roasting with rosemary

Ozette potatoes roasting with rosemary

Earthy, nutty, truffle-like are some of the words to describe the flavor of the Ozette.   These flavors were prominent to me and made them a great choice to go with game, pork tenderloin and Daddy’s venison.  I also cooked them whole, under a roasting chicken – they held up, absorbed some chicken flavor, yet still sang that earthy note.  Roasting, steaming, sauteed and boiled/mashed were the ways I prepared them.  My favorites were  sauteed and roasted.  But make sure to try steaming – it gives you the opportunity to really taste the potato – just finish it  the way my Mammaw did my first potato.