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Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Archive for May 2009

United By Our Love of Rhubarb, Edible Gardens, Food Preservation and Backyard Coops

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Blogs, like good food, bring like-minded folks together. Just nine months into our Oregon adventure, I’ve now befriended fellow foodies, in the flesh, who I first met through Culinate, the virtual Portland-based food news and social networking site. That’s where I discovered Our Home Works, a local eating/gardening blog run by software developer Amy McCann (and board member of the Willamette Food & Farm Coalition) and her landscape architect (jealous!) husband, Matt Scheibe. My second new blogger friend is Jennifer B. Levin, an English PhD. who writes food columns for the Eugene Weekly and blogs at Culinaria Eugenius. After trading posts for several months, we all finally met in person last Saturday night!

Though of course I already felt like I knew them. Amy and Matt kindly had us over to their renovated Eugene home. There, we indulged on grilled baby back ribs (marinated with homemade smokey peach and Hoisin sauces), cornbread, bay shrimp-topped deviled eggs, kale bruschetta, grilled chicken with cilantro jalapeno pesto and a baby potato salad. It was a feast. Amy and Matt were the consummate hosts, ensuring that our glasses never went empty. We drank ginger-cilantro lemon-drop cocktails, crisp and addicting rhubarb sodas and lots of local beer.I had such a good time, I forget to photograph the spread of food! I also made a potchka for dessert: a custardy “Coconut-Cardamom Rice Pudding with Rhubarb” (minus the kumquats). It was a yummy, South Asian-inflected, sweet/tart concoction but probably not worth the effort.

Amy and Jennifer are also master gardeners and their knowledge puts us to shame. Amy and Matt’s 1/3-acre lot is perfectly landscaped, with fava beans as a cover crop, a row of blueberry plants, fig and cherry trees and now chickens. My new blogger friends are also food preservers. Amy’s garage shelf full of pickled cucumbers and dilly beans, canned tomato sauces and strawberry-rhubarb jams inspired me. Hopefully I’ll be there soon.

We’re already talking about our next meet-up. They’re intrigued to try The Woodsman, the logger bar/authentic Thai restaurant in Philomath that is now about our favorite restaurant in town:)
Rhubarb rice pudding

rhubarb rice pudding

Chickens in the backyard of Our Home Works

Chickens in the backyard of Our Home Works

Written by baltimoregon

May 11, 2009 at 11:53 pm

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Food Preservation: Freezer Time

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Frozen rhubarb...who knew?

Frozen rhubarb...who knew?/Flickr Creative Commons/By jesshibb

My mom canned tomatoes and grew her own sprouts when I was an infant. Then she stopped. Before I got to learn how. But now is my chance to lay claim to those lost food preservation arts, which are enjoying a revival in this recession, embraced by do-it-yourselfers already enchanted with knitting and gardening. So I enrolled in the master food preserver course offered by the local Oregon State University Extension Office. For $40, we spend our Thursdays for eight weeks delving into hot water and pressure canning, jellies and jams, freezing, pickling, dehydrating and all the related food safety issues (goal number one: avoid death by botulism).

Our first class today we focused on freezing techniques, which just happened to coincide with Mark Bittman’s “Freeze That Thought” piece this week. It’s a great freezing 101 primer. Who knew you needed a freezer thermometer, to ensure you are set at 0 degrees. A higher temp reduces storage time.

Freezing is the gateway to more difficult preservation methods. No additional equipment is required. (Although Oregonians are gaga for those huge chest garage freezers, which they fill with that cow share they buy into.) But as Bittman says:

IF I tried to sell you a new appliance that could help you save money, reduce food waste and get meals on the table faster, the only thing you’d ask would be “How much?”

The answer is “Nothing.” You already own it. For just as the stove comes with a hidden and often overlooked bonus — the broiler — so does the refrigerator: the freezer. Why not use it?

I’ll begin by freezing slices of rhubarb this weekend. I crave the tart fruit in crisps all winter. Now I can have it. It just takes a little planning ahead. No need to buy the fancy Food Saver vaccuum sealer our teacher demoed in class. Are they really worth it? You can use the vacuum to seal lids on Ball jars. I’ll stick to the hot water bath. Now if only my mother hadn’t given away her canning equipment:(

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Written by baltimoregon

May 8, 2009 at 12:53 am

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Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

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Corvallis Mexican folklore 4-H club kids doing a dance from Veracruz

Corvallis Mexican folklore 4-H club kids doing a dance from Veracruz

We had to grab a quick dinner tonight. So why not head to La Rockita, the local chain of affordable, authentic Oaxacan-style Mexican restaurants, especially since it was Cinco de Mayo? I’m always craving their tacos de lengua (braised beef tongue).

Little did we know we were in for a special treat. Traditional Veracruz and Jalisco Mexican folklore dances by colorfully costumed kids from a local 4-H club. It was pretty precious. But I should have stuck with the tongue tacos. The camarones de crema was too fishy and rich. Consistency. Keep it simple. I’ve found a simple dish that can’t be improved upon. Succulent meat, its grease undercut by crisp radishes, diced onions, cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Enfolded in a warm corn tortilla shell. Why should I order anything else?

Le le le lengua

Le le le lengua

Skip the camarones de crema

Skip the camarones de crema

Written by baltimoregon

May 6, 2009 at 12:58 am

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No More Waiting for Asparagus

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Oregon asparagus

Baltimore (well actually Seaford, Del.) asparagus

Baltimore (well actually Seaford, Del.) asparagus

You’ve heard about the rhubarb. Well, asparagus is that other early spring vegetable for which I eagerly await. Its presence marks the start of this abundant season. Maybe I’ll eventually plant my own asparagus bed, like Barbara Kingsolver, but you have to wait three years for the harvest. For now, procuring the green (and sometimes eggplant purple) spears from local farmers will more than do.

Asparagus featured prominently at my beloved old Waverly Farmers Market in Baltimore, which I got to visit when briefly in town for a wedding last weekend. That’s Hannah and I fingering the skinny, almost stringy stalks for sale at the stand run by a farmer from Seaford, Del. But Hannah said they’ve been tough and not that flavorful. Here in Oregon, the spears are mostly sweet and fat. I received deliveries of them from the local organic Sunbow Farm here in Corvallis. Just order $10 of produce and they’ll deliver to your door. Pretty nice when you don’t have a CSA but are out of town for the weekend farmers market.

What do you make with your April and May fresh asparagus? I recommend this “Sesame Noodles with Fresh Asparagus Tips” recipe from Deborah Madison, via Culinate. I added local sauteed shittake mushrooms to the mix. Also substituted flat rice noodles for the Chinese egg ones, but don’t recommend that. And tonight I topped pasta with fresh local fava beans and asparagus, sauteed with leeks and green garlic in olive oil and a chicken broth and lemon juice sauce. Topped with chopped parsley, dill, tarragon and chives from the garden, it made for a light springy meal.

Sesame Noodles with Asparagus

Sesame Noodles with Asparagus

Tonight's lemony asparagus pasta

Tonight's lemony asparagus pasta

Written by baltimoregon

May 4, 2009 at 11:55 pm

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