Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tour de Coop or Tour de Force?

Honestly there are few things I love more than eggs. I think my death row meal would be a souffle or one of those perfectly fried eggs you only seem to get in France. I love 'em! I grew up in a very small town in Southern Oregon and we had 6 acres of land on which we raised a small farm including chickens. Being raised on fresh eggs and dairy really ruined me for the stuff you get in the grocery store. I am so, so grateful to my parents for raising us kids with a respect for the land, animals, and the bounty both provide. We knew where food came from; it was always raised with love and respect, and didn't come wrapped in plastic on a Styrofoam tray.

I never thought we'd be able to raise farm animals in the city, especially with a big dog, but after hearing about the urban farming movement taking Portland by storm, I got to thinking....I was tickled pink when SM agreed he'd be interested in building a coop and raising us some chicks! He's an engineer at heart and needs to do a ton of research before embarking on a project whereas I like to dive right in, learn as I go by asking friendly experts for advice. The Tour de Coop provided the perfect compromise for both our learning styles and I'm so glad we did it. We saw coops ranging built from fruit crates to those equipped with cooling fans and solar panels. I particularly enjoyed hearing the owners stories and about the chickens themselves. As with anything you can make raising chickens either a complicated or simple affair. And overall chicks don't seem too fussy. Some key things I learned about raising successful, happy chicks:

  • Build a coop that includes the following elements: hen house with nesting box (with privacy), give them roost of varying heights and a run so they can enjoy fresh air.
  • Protect you hens from predators by securing the hen house with locks and ensure that food and water is off the ground.
  • Keep the coop clean. We will likely use the deep litter method and some type of tray made out of linoleum. Chicken manure makes the BEST fertilizers and will supplement your compost nicely.
  • Give them treats. Chicken loves table scraps (veggies only)
  • Enjoy them as pets! Except if you plan on making Coq Au Vin. :-)

One of the coops we visited was also home the 2 dairy goats and a kid. The kid was SOOO sweet and playful. She repeatedly jumped into the arms of her human seeking attention.

We are both really excited to become urban farmers but must wait patiently for spring. Patience is a virtue I really don't have! I want baby chicks now! SM already has a coop design planned out and I'm concentrating on the important things like what breeds have the prettiest plumage and what to name our girls.

We tried to take photos but there was something wrong with our camera. :-(

The Kale Conundrum

From our CSA, I think we have gotten more Kale and Chard than anything else this season. These lovely vitamin rich leafy vegetables are a great alternative to spinach. When it comes to preparing your Kale or Chard, the standard method is braising and serving as a side, which involves a quick sauté in some chicken or vegetable stock and adding your seasoning of choice. However, I like options (especially in this heat!), so I wanted to share a couple of our favorite ways to prepare it:

Braised with Polenta cakes: sauté ½ cup onions and one chopped garlic clove in 2 T olive oil, then add any mix of about 4 cups of Kale or Chard (remembering to remove the tougher stems), along with about ¼ cup chicken or vegetable stock (red chili flakes optional). Cook until just wilted and tender. Season with pepper as desired. Remove from heat and let slightly cool. Remove excess liquid as needed. Mix in about ¼ – ½ cup crumbled soft cheese (we like both feta and goat). The cooler the mixture, the less the cheese melts, so it is your preference. Meanwhile, heat a fry pan with some olive oil, and then add slices of polenta cut about ½ – ¾ inch think. Cook until tops turn slightly crispy (flip to cook both sides). Serve the kale and cheese mixture on top of the fried polenta. (Source: a combination of recipes from
The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without)

Kale, tomato and prosciutto quiche: preheat oven to 350 ⁰F. Prepare one single-pie pastry crust of your choice (optional to precook it). Shred about 6oz of a cheese of your choice (we like either a goat cheese or a stronger white cheese like Gruyere or Fontina). Chop about 2 cups Kale into large bite size pieces (remove the stems) and slightly braise, set to the side to cool. Cut or tear about 6 pieces of prosciutto into quarters and slice about 3 Roma tomatoes. Wisk together 4 eggs, ¾ heavy whipping cream and ¾ cup milk, or half-and-half. Add a dash of salt and pepper to taste. Layer all the prepped ingredients, except the egg mixture, in the pie crust. I like to end with the tomato slices since they are the prettiest. Pour egg mixture over the top. Put in oven and cook 40 – 45 minutes until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Note: this can be done with a variety of ingredients, so don’t be afraid to experiment!

Kale Chips: just tried this one out this week, and it was a hit (even BF was impressed)! Preheat oven (or BBQ when too hot inside) to 350 ⁰F. Remove the stems and chop any amount of Kale into large pieces (about half the size of your palm). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the Kale flat on top. Sprinkle with olive oil (I used a pastry brush) and season with salt (garlic salt is good too, but careful not to overdo it). Bake about 6 minutes (depending on amount) until mostly crisp but watch very closely as they will burn quickly. Serve as an appetizer, snack or side! (Source: LucyDelRey from

Crepes: when our fridge gets too full, we often whip up a batch of crepes. You can really experiment with anything you’ve got, but our favorites, are of course, braised Kale or Chard, as well as left over steak or chicken, smoked Salmon, pepper jack cheese, goat cheese, cream cheese, etc. For the crepes, combine 3 eggs, ½ cup milk, ½ cup water, 3 T melted butter, ¾ cup all-purpose flour and ½ t salt in a blender. Blend 1 minute. Scrape down sides of blender and blend until smooth, about 30 additional seconds. Heat a small (8”) fry pan on medium heat and coat lightly with PAM. Pour about ¼ cup of batter into the pan and spread to edges. Flip as soon as the bottom is cooked (careful not to overcook or burn). Recoat the pan about every 5th crepe. Fill each crepe on one half with fillings of choice, fold over and return to pan to reheat and warm ingredients. By the way, these are fun to do with guests as everyone can build their own!

Please feel free to share your ideas as well!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

You Always Remember Your First

Man, it's HOT, HOT, HOT in the 97212. The only upside to all this is my tomatoes are finally ripening. I just plucked my first little bowlful of heirloom purple Cherokees. With some basil, balsamic and evoo I may forget about the 100+ degree temperature.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Missing my CSA

My husband and I trekked along the Oregon Coast last week for our summer vacation/annual road trip, camping and exploring. While it was a great trip, we missed our CSA and fresh veggies immensely. A campfire provides a great source for grilling vegetables, but we aren’t exactly gourmet campers and tend to stick to the basics, meaning fresh produce became a treat. To compensate for our lack of local produce, Will and I decided to try other local offerings – a key to any successful trip – and explored several of Oregon’s renowned breweries and wineries.

According to the Oregon Brewers Guild, there are currently 63 brewing companies operating 88 brewing facilities in Oregon; 30 within Portland city limits, which is more than any other city in the world. If you’re a fan of craft beer, as my husband and I are, then exploring Oregon’s breweries is a must for any trip to the state. And when campfire cooking got old or we found ourselves anywhere near a brewery, it was more than likely that we could be found belly up to a bar, sampling ales and stouts while trying to determine which brewery’s food lived up to its beer pairings. Unfortunately for us, breweries were few and far between along the coast, though we did visit the mother ship of our local brewpub, Rogue, in Newport. For Will and I, seeing master brewer John Maier at work was much like a celebrity sighting – we spend so much time and money at Rogue’s Issaquah Brewhouse and the beers bring us such joy that our trip to Rogue was definitely a trip highlight.

Exploring Oregon’s wineries was also a unique experience and we stopped several times throughout our trip to sample different varietals. Though we visited just a handful of the state’s nearly 400 wineries, we did sample several Pinot Noirs, the grape that put Oregon wines on the map. I’m a big fan of Erath wines and a trip to their tasting room in Dundee was a must for me. We made it out of the tasting room with a scant four bottles - and only 10 total for the trip; I was impressed by my own discipline as I could have easily purchased several cases along the way.

During our trip, we discovered that we’ve become almost addicted to our weekly bounty from Jubilee Farm, and to make up for our lack of veggies, we made exploring other local offerings a big part of our trip . I might eventually run out of fresh ideas for squash (and will look to my fellow KD ladies for help), tire of tomatoes (if such a thing is possible!) and no longer clamor for cabbage (though there's so much you can do with cabbage), but until then, I’ll eagerly await my next share and look forward to getting creative with the freshest, local ingredients. And when the fresh bounty runs out, there’s always Washington breweries and wineries to explore!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Riches of the Pacific Coast

I grew up in a fishing family, not the commercial kind, but the sports fishing kind. As such, I have been lucky enough to have access to fresh Pacific Coast seafood for my entire life, including Halibut, Lingcod, Salmon, Dungeness crab, Oysters, etc. A few weekends ago, my boyfriend and I joined my father for several days of Coho Salmon fishing out of Newport, OR. Also known as a Silver, the Coho Salmon is a smaller species than the King Salmon, but is one of the more popular for sports fishing as it is a very active fish once hooked, leaping, spinning and running. Due to degraded and polluted environments and over fishing, the natural or wild Salmon populations have been nearly depleted and therefore, have been supplemented by hatchery fish. As such, when fishing for Silvers, you can only keep hatchery fish. Genetically and environmentally, hatchery fish are the same as native in that they cohabitate and follow the same behaviors. So how does one tell the difference between the two as the fish is thrashing wildly on your line? As a Salmon fry, a tiny dorsal fin is laser cut off without any impact to the life of the fish so when they reach maturity, they are identifiable to a Sports fisherman. A slow eye and a split second too late, and that beautiful and tasty fish can slip right off your hook and away it goes. :)

Luckily, we had a wonderful weekend, with plenty of fishing, and a good amount of catching. ;) Our ratio of native to hatchery was about 2:1 one, which while somewhat disappointing on the catching side, is hopefully a good sign of the reviving native Salmon population.

Nothing beats fresh Salmon. We prefer to do very little with it during the cooking process as the flavors are so rich. Our favorite way is wrapped in tin foil, seasoned with salt, pepper, olive oil and a little butter and then thrown on the BBQ. The key thing is to not overcook it. It should be slightly translucent pink in the middle, but warm. Remember, it will keep cooking once you take it off the grill and put it on your plate. Because we haven’t over dressed the salmon itself, I love to provide some fun sides. Sour cream mixed with chopped fresh dill is a big favorite. In addition, raid your herb garden for a medley of fresh herbs, like thyme, oregano, chives, rosemary, and finely chop and mix with softened butter. Then use the butter wrapper to shape it back into a role or cube and stick back in the fridge to harden. Just before serving, slice into quarter inch patties and serve along side of the Salmon. Advise your guests to put the herb butter directly on the fish so it melts, and enjoy!

Summer is the ideal time to enjoy the riches of the Pacific Coast. Most people don’t have access to a fishing boat, or aren’t interested in taking a charter to do the catching themselves, so the best way to get fresh and seasonal seafood is to make your way down to the fishing docks where you will find many small commercial fishermen and women selling directly to the consumer. Besides Coho Salmon, you can also find Tuna, Halibut, many kinds of Rockfish, and shellfish. A bit later in the season you can get Chinook or King Salmon, a larger species with slightly more robust flavor. Of course, you can also find fresh seafood in your local super market, just be sure to ask what is in season and has been line caught (instead of net). If you are interested in learning more about the efforts to protect the Salmon, I would encourage you to check out these resources: the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, SAFE for Salmon and The Salmon For All Organization.

We shared our bounty with several friends this week. And as a special treat for my guests,
I saved some Dungeness crab meat and served a crab and Gruyere crème brullee. It is a huge hit, and very delicious! Here is the recipe (serves 6):

  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • Meat from one full cooked Dungeness crab (legs and body)
  • ¼ cup fresh chives
  • 2 large eggs and 2 large egg yolks
  • ¾ cup heavy whipping cream and ¾ cup half and half
  • ¾ cup (3 oz) shredded Gruyere cheese
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese

  • Cooking Directions
  • Preheat the oven to 275 ⁰F
  • Sautee the crab meat in the butter for about 5 minutes and then mix in the chives, remove from heat.
  • Whisk eggs until pale yellow in color, whisk in heavy whipping cream, half and half, shredded Gruyere, and salt and pepper. Combine with crab mixture.
  • Place 6 standard size crème brullee ramekins in a shallow baking dish. Divide custard mixture among the dishes. Fill the baking dish with warm water, about half way up the dishes.
  • Put into the oven and bake for 35 – 40 minutes until the centers jiggle just slightly. Remove from oven and baking dish and place on a cookie sheet or fire safe surface.
  • Sprinkle with 1 – 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese and use a crème brullee torch to melt the cheese and just slightly brown the top. If you don’t have a crème brulle torch, you can also put back in the oven under the broiler for a few minutes (be very careful not to burn!).
  • Serve warm.

  • To top off the savory dinner, I picked some local pie cherries to make a tart and tasty cherry pie! What a feast!

    It's COMING

    The inevitable onslaught of zukes and summer squash. Earlier this week, NYT's Bitten blog shared some great recipes on what to do with the heap.

    I only planted one zucchini and it's already huge and bearing lots of fruit and I'm already looking through recipes lining up ideas of interesting ways to sneak it into our meals. In addition to the bisque and bread idea suggested by Bitten, my favorite ways to use zuke are sauteing slices with garlic, lemon in olive oil topping with some basil and parm and tossing with some pasta or making zucchini boats. To make the boats, cut the ends off and halve horizontally. Scoop out the middle and chop that up. Add whatever flavors you like. I usually go Mediterranean and add tomatoes, feta, pine nuts and herbs. Slip those suckers in a pan with about a half inch of water and bake @ 425 until the zukes walls are fork tender.

    I'm sure the KD chicks will be posting more ideas about what do to with summer squash in the coming weeks. Speaking of chicks, I'm checking out the Tour de Coops this weekend and will share my experience and thoughts on urban farming next week.

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    My date with daikons

    My husband brought home our latest box full of CSA goodies and along with some of the usual suspects – chard, mixed salad greens, broccoli, cabbage – we also received a bunch of what we determined were a new fangled variety of white carrots; something organic, natural and different, we thought. We decided to try these “white carrots” and while Will (smartly) took a danty little sample, I bit in whole heartedly, eagerly anticipating the sweet, crispness of a nice, fresh carrot. To our surprise, these “carrots” had a bitter pepper taste, more common with a radish and after some quick research online, I determined that my “white carrots,” were in fact daikons. One mystery solved, one left…what the heck do you do with a bunch of daikons??

    After some additional Web searches I learned that daikons are common in Japanese cooking, particularly as an accompaniment to sushi. Apparently they’re also quite good pickled, and while both options sounded delicious (along with the suggestions I received on Facebook ranging from roasting them with pancetta or simmering in a Miso broth), I was hoping to avoid a run to the store and whip up something quickly with what I had on hand. I decided to get a bit creative with another recipe online for roasting radishes and turnips – and with my fresh bunch of turnips as well, with this recipe, I could kill two birds with one stone.

    I peeled and cubed the turnips and radishes and added in some garlic and onion (though in my kitchen, garlic and onion are requirements for virtually all dishes so this should come as no surprise), tossed them in a roasting pan and topped with a mixture of olive oil, soy sauce, honey, mustard, white wine and oodles of fresh and dried herbs. And what a nice surprise this dish yielded! Not only did my house smell heavenly as everything roasted and simmered together, but the final results were a nice mixture of sweet and savory. After roasting for 45 minutes in the oven, the roots were both tender and well seasoned, flavored by the unique mixture.

    While I was happy with my results with daikon for the first time, I’m anticipating receiving many more of these “white carrots.” What are some of your favorite methods for preparing daikons?

    Saturday, July 11, 2009

    No Veggie Left Behind

    SM and I went to the Hollywood Farmer's Market per our usual Saturday routine. Love, love, love this time of year! It's right when the markets are brimming with vegetables, but so much more to come and everyone is out and about enjoying the lovely Portland summer. However, the downside is I always buy way too much and I'm really trying to stick to my no vegetable left behind rule. So when I got home I found there were still vegetables I bought last week eagerly waiting to be cooked. What's a girl to do?

    From last week, I had beets, fennel and some carrots waiting in the wings and this week I bought some cabbage, leeks and salmon (among other things, including more beets...I'm Polish, what can I say?). Hmm...what does this all add up to? Well, a delicious accident.

    SM, who is Italian and my perennial dinner guest and life guest, is also in the beet fan club. So I quickly knew we had to beet it for dinner. I cut off the tops and bottoms of the beets, added a clove of garlic, so salt and a drizzle of olive oil and wrapped them in tin foil and popped them in our toaster oven @ 425 until tender (about 40). IMHO, there's really no better way to cook a beet. Shout out to Marcella Hazan for this revelation.

    Made myself a gin martini to inspire the creative process <--This is a crucial step not to be missed.

    I then grabbed the cabbage (used 1/4 head), 3 leeks, 2 carrots and 1 trimmed fennel and decided after a little braising they'd make a comfy and yummy bed for the salmon. Another crucial step besides the martini is to thoroughly clean the leeks. After cutting off the snaggles, and dark green leaves, cut the root horizontally and soaked in some cold water. Soil, be damned! I sliced up everything (leaving the carrots a bit thicker for texture), plopped them in a saute pan with some melted butter and 1 sprig of thyme and tarragon for about 4 minutes. I added 1 cup stock and let it simmer until the stock was absorbed. Set aside. Reheat and sprinkle with parsley before serving.

    While I working on the braised veggies, I had another revelation (thank you, martini!). Horseradish cream sauce would complement all the elements quite nicely. I am addicted to Fage Greek style yogurt (1 cup), so pulled that, some heavy cream (1/3 cup) and prepared horseradish (1 TB or to taste) and some chopped chives (1/2 TB), courtesy of the herb garden. I mixed this all together and put in the fridge. Honestly it was a bit tart and recommend a little butter (1 TB).

    After letting the salmon come to room temp, I seasoned it and pan fried it in butter with a bit of lemon, shallots and chives.

    Served this over Israeli couscous, but any grain/small pasta would do.

    I am really trying to amp up my cooking "UI." I come from a long line of cooks who focus too much on taste and not on presentation. I hope to break that habit. Posting a photo with each entry keeps me honest.

    I layered the dish this way:
    --braised veggies
    -beets, quartered and reassembled on the side

    We enjoyed this with a bottle of Elk Cove Vineyard La Sirene. Nice light red that complemented, but didn't intimidate the dish.

    Both SM and I enjoyed this dinner immensely and I am grateful that this blog is forcing me to record my happy accidents. :-)

    Thursday, July 9, 2009

    The Renaissance Vegetable

    This week I had another new experience; cardoons! From what my CSA told me and what I read online, I was expecting this stalk vegetable to taste like artichokes. I found an intriguing recipe for breaded and fried (can’t go wrong with fried, right?!). The prep included peeling the stringy outside (think celery) and soaking it in vinegar water. Then I boiled the heck out of it (30 minutes) waiting for it to get “very tender,” which it never really did. It was a simple egg, breadcrumb and parmesan cheese breading that was then fried for about five minutes. The result was rather perplexing; the flesh was still rather tough and quite bitter, and I didn’t pick up any hint of artichoke. So I wonder a couple of things, these were rather thin/young stalks, so did I not peel enough off? Secondly, did I not boil them long enough?

    Of course, I am willing to give them another try as what I read about them made them seem like a real culinary specialty. My second attempt will probably be down the gratin path. Anyone else have any ideas?

    The Veggie that Inspired it All

    Kohlrabi looks like a pod incubating an alien from Mars.

    It's green, hard and has wavy bumps all over it. Doesn't necessarily screams, "Eat me! I am delish!" But it can be, trust us. Here's four ways to serve it.

    My version:
    Make a gratin! Everything is better covered in cheese, right? I am not very exact--I'll work on this. :-) Peel, slice and boil the kohlrabi. Make a basic roux and add some Dijon, parsley from the garden and 2 handfuls of cheddar cheese. Stir sauce and veggie together. Voila! If you are feeling fancy, spread it in a casserole dish, sprinkle cheese and breadcrumbs on top and pop it under the broiler for a few.

    The world according to Erin:
    Peel and slice kohlrabi
    Top with salt
    Insert in mouth
    Chomp and enjoy.

    Another idea is to add raw prepared kohlrabi to salad greens and bacon. Top with blue cheese dressing.

    Heather's sneaky way:
    Her main squeeze says he doesn't like it so she adds it to other root vegetables like turnips, carrots and potato and roasts in a pan.

    What do YOU do with kohlrabi?

    What exactly is The Kohlrabi Diaries?

    Farms, gardens and markets are full of some of the freshest – and sometimes, the most unusual – produce right now and all summer long. But just what can you do with all that kale and chard? How can you best use mixed greens so as to not eat salads every single day? Tomatoes are great, but how can you use cartons full of them on a weekly basis? Are squash blossoms really edible and/or usable? And what the heck is kohlrabi and what can you do with it?

    In The Kohlrabi Diaries, we aim to put our own experiences with fresh, local ingredients on display, showcasing both our successes and missteps for others interested in finding ways to make it through a week’s worth of CSA goodies, produce from your farmers market or homegrown gifts from your own garden. We’re all learning together and look forward to hearing your experiences as well. So stay tuned as figure out the best way to use kohlrabi, as well as all the other bounties of the season!