BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Posts Tagged ‘locavore

Local Ginger in Maine and Oregon (with Recipes)

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Fresh baby ginger (and its rhizome cousin, tumeric) at Chas Gill’s Kennebec Flower Farm stand at the Brunswick Farmers’ Market in early October (all photos by Laura McCandlish, unless otherwise noted).

I had never cooked with fresh, baby ginger before. I remember seeing local ginger once in Oregon, at the Eugene Farmers’ Market, at the Groundworks Organics booth, I believe. But Maine is not Oregon. Artichokes, and even citrus such as Meyers Lemons, are relatively easy to grow in temperate Oregon. It rarely snows during the Willamette Valley’s mild winters. In Oregon, the garlic seed sends up green shoots by November, vegetation that reminds you spring is coming throughout the wet, grey winter. But in Maine, the fall-planted garlic doesn’t poke up until April or May.

So I was more than a little surprised to chance upon locally-grown ginger at the farmers’ market in this harsh clime. At least half a dozen farmers in Maine are growing the niche crop in their unheated, underutilized greenhouses throughout the summer. Leading ginger producer Freedom Farm will speak on a panel about “New Crops [winter-sprouting broccoli, raspberries and ginger] in Tunnels” at MOFGA’s upcoming Farmer-to Farmer conference this weekend.

The Maine-grown ginger I first chanced upon at Morning Glory Natural Foods in Brunswick.

I first chanced upon ginger at Morning Glory Natural Foods in Brunswick. It was from the Koubek family of The Good Shepherd’s Farm in Bremen, which planted the rhizomes for the first time this season. The Koubeks also supplied Chef Aaron Park (who grew up in Eugene, Ore.!) of Henry and Marty Restaurant here. Park, whose sister lives in Corvallis, pickled the rosy young ginger into the Japanese sushi condiment, gari. He also shaved it over ocean perch and grated it into a beef short rib marinade for Korean kalbi.

Chef Aaron Park’s pickled ginger, with its natural blush.

My pickled ginger, its pink amped up with a slice of raw beet.

The best thing about young ginger is it doesn’t require the painstaking step of peeling before use. Its pink bud-scales lend pickled ginger its natural pink hue. My former KLCC “Food for Thought” show colleague Jennifer recommends throwing in a slice of raw beet to stain the slices a punchier pink. And here’s a shout-out to my former “Food for Thought” colleagues! Eugene Weekly readers recently voted it their second favorite radio show in town.

For pickled ginger recipes, I recommend consulting this one, from my friend Linda Ziedrich, a food preservation guru and cookbook author who homesteads in Scio, Ore. I also drew on the “pickled fresh ginger” recipe from Old Friends Farm in Amherst, Mass., which pioneered the growing of New England ginger back in 2006. Ginger seed supplier East Branch Ginger is another good source of baby ginger recipes.

Alas, the fresh ginger season has come to a close. I’m out of product. Next year, I hope to candy my own crystallized ginger. And I’ve always wanted to try naturally-fermented ginger beer. Oregon master bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler has this recipe. You can even use the gnarled spent mother-roots of the baby ginger to make the “bug,” so nothing goes to waste.

Sara Iams (left) snatches up some fresh ginger from Chas Gill’s Kennebec Flower Farm at the Brunswick Farmers’ Market.

Final Salad Days of Summer

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Tri-colored beets (golden, candy-striped Chioggia and plain red) salad I topped with goat cheese and maple syrup-candied chopped almonds.

I’ve been falling in love with salads again as I frantically try to cook up the summer’s bounty before the chill sets in here in Maine. In  Oregon and here, September is prime salad-making time. You’ve got just about every fresh, locally-grown vegetable at your disposal.

I’ve brought salads to several events of late, so I’m in a groove. And rather than bring the same old dressed lettuce, I’ve sought out variety, recipes that really test our sense of the word “salad.” I love how deliciously broad a category it is.

Take, for example, otsu: the tangy, gingery cold soba noodles tossed with toasted tofu, cucumber, scallions, toasted sesame seeds and shredded carrot kraut (last ingredient my addition). I gladly stumbled upon the recipe in popular food blogger Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking book, a thank-you gift I received for judging a hazelnut cooking competition. Swanson’s technique of roasting the drained tofu cubes in a dry non-stick pan (or well-seasoned cast iron skillet) was a revelation to me. Finally crispy cubes of tofu that didn’t require additional oil. I might use this technique to prepare tofu for a stir-fry or simmer sauce, to give in a more satisfying texture. Be careful not to overcook the soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles) here…those thin suckers cook up quickly.

Other salads I made this week included a visually-grabbing tri-colored beet salad with cut blanched green beans and yellow tomato. Tonight, I was inspired by the Samin Nosrat‘s grilled pepper and corn salad. It came out more like a liquid-y salsa, but a nice acidic complement to greasy ribs we picnicked on from a surprisingly authentic BBQ place in nearby Bath (great domain name, Beale Street!). The liquid leftover from the salad would make nice Bloody Mary’s. Nosrat’s recipe calls for pre-pickling the onions in red wine vinegar and pressing garlic with salt into paste for dressing–techniques I recognize from my beloved Tamar Adler. Which isn’t surprising, I suppose, since both women worked at Chez Panisse. Must have learned the techniques from Alice Waters.

Written by baltimoregon

September 8, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Local Strawberries: Worth Waiting For (Now Could We Just Get Some Sun)

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Finally succumbed to fresh strawberries from the greenhouses at Denison Farms at the Corvallis Wednesday Market. They’re still tart due to lack of sun but more vivid than the still-good organic clamshell Driscolls from California I caved for at the welcome oasis of Metropolitan Market while camped out at Seattle Children’s Hospital last week. My uncovered berries in the garden are just flowers that haven’t yet produced, though I did pick a few samples from nearby test plots on OSU’s campus.

The strawberries and some neglected spinach inspired an impromptu lunch today. I macerated the strawberries (with a touch of sugar) in balsamic and black pepper, chopped up some sweet sugar snap peas (also from Denison’s), crumbled some Rogue Oregon Blue on top and dressed the greens with a balsamic-honey-shallot-Dijon-olive oil vinaigrette. All it lacked was some toasted hazelnuts for crunch. Here’s to strawberry season! I can’t wait to take Theo back to pick strawberries at organic Fairfield Farm near Southtown.

Written by baltimoregon

May 24, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Burnheimer Meat Co. CSA Dispatch: Month One

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Burnheimer Meat Co. CSA: Month 1 Box

Omnivorous flexitarian that I am, I still find myself in an off-again, on-again, feast or famine relationship with pork. It’s not the Jewish background: my Friedberg grandparents had their kosher friends over for ham. I’ve learned that meats as unctuous as pork–and all meats really–are best experienced as a condiment (with a nod to Thomas Jefferson and Chinese cuisine), used to compliment and flavor the fresh vegetables and whole grains that make up a bulk of one’s plates. Meat is a precious and rare resource, a great source of protein and sustenance that creates environmental challenges we can’t ignore. We should pay more for animals raised in a humane and Earth-friendly way, and eat less of that meat, with more reverence. With that spirit, this spring I signed up for our first (three-month) meat C.S.A.

First, I tackled the delicate duck breasts from Evergreen Creek Farms in Philomath. Brad promises me duck legs in April, so I can try my hand at confit.

Next time, I'll cure duck proscuitto. This time, just went with fennel-and-lavender-studded "Roasted Duck Breast with Bourbon-Braised Italian Prunes (I used cherries instead)," from Seattle chef Jason Wilson of Crush, included in Ivy Manning's standby "Farm to Table Cookbook."












At first, $80 a month (a $240 check) seemed a lot for three months of meat. But GTF charcuterie wiz Brad Burnheimer promised 10 lbs. of fresh cuts, sausages and bacon, from free-roaming heritage pigs. I picked my first box at Gathering Together Farm on March 2. Enclosed was the note:

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Written by baltimoregon

March 27, 2012 at 12:10 am

Dining in Chi-Town, with Twitter as My Guide

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Chicken Balti Pot-less Pie, Minted Peas and Pleasant Farms-grown winter greens salad with shaved fennel and grapefruit (thanks Kevin Pang!).

I knew nothing about Chicago’s food scene. I’d only spent one night here before, on our summer 2008 cross-country drive en route to Oregon. And after traveling with six-month-old and teething Theo for the past three weeks, needless to say, I didn’t have  time or energy to research our food options in advance of our 48-hour layover here.

Of course, I knew Grant Achatz’s Alinea, but they’re booked up through October. I did manage to get a call for a spot off the wait-list, but the 3-star Michelin molecular gastronomy temple doesn’t permit children under age 14. So I turned to Twitter. I desperately directed-messaged Chicago Tribune “Cheap Eater” Kevin Pang for a baby-friendly, non-touristy, affordable spot, accessible from downtown. Within minutes, he directs me to Bar Toma, the new wood-fired, locavore pizza/gelato/pastry/espresso joint from Tony Mantuano, of Spiaggia restaurant and Top Chef fame. Pang won my trust. I devoured my La Quercia proscuitto with arugula and mozzarella pizza, chasing it with a Manhattan-like cocktail and then a local Heiffeweizen, an over-tired Theo finally asleep on my chest in the Ergo.

Bar Toma pizza and local weisse beer.

So I took Pang’s recommendation for the best new restaurant of 2011 to heart. The erstwhile Baltimore dwelling, former Bronx teacher, gritty journalist in me is drawn to revitalizing neighborhoods like Bridgeport (an immigrant enclave once known as “Hardscrabble”), a semi-vacant former stockyard zone on Chicago’s South Side. Plus, I was headed to Bridgeport anyway, to scope out the new Chicago headquarters and large Iron Street Farm of Will Allen’s Growing Power (more on that industrial oasis, with its vermiculture, tilapia tanks whose waste nourishes hydroponic kale plants and oyster-mushroom growing bales later). All I can say is, everyone on the #9 bus acted like I was crazy when I asked how to get to the farm on Iron Street. As Theo and I strolled past a Pepsi bottling plant, a man I asked for directions asked if our car had been impounded.

We were more confident, with a determined hunger, on our subsequent walk to Pleasant House Bakery. I wasn’t away of the humble restaurant’s gardens I must have passed, where they source much of their kale for delectable creamed-spinach-like and mushroom pies. I’m running out of steam here, but the tomato curried Chicken Balti pie, with a side of sweet minted peas, was divine. If only I’d had room for the sausage-encased, battered Scotch egg, a British delicacy I’ve never tried, which I also regret passing up at Ping’s Cafe in Vancouver. Chefs and co-owners Art and Chelsea Kalberloh Jackson couldn’t have been more hospitable when our car-seat and stroller barged into their cozy space. It turns out 3 pm on a Saturday, between the lunch and dinner rush, is the ideal time to dine there with a baby. If I was childless, I’d have had my food delivered I to Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar. Instead, I washed it all down with a homemade spicy ginger ale and then a coffee and brown-bagged a Two Brothers barley wine from Maria’s to take back to the hotel. And fortunately Theo once again fell asleep on my Ergo-ed on our long walk down Halstead back to the Orange line.

Written by baltimoregon

January 7, 2012 at 10:34 pm

No Precious Olympia Oysters at Olympia’s Waterfront Budd Bay Cafe

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Robb Walsh’s Oyster guide: Olympia’s are the morsels on the bottom row (

I am admittedly a food snob. Still, I can feast like a king on a tangy, umami-bomb of Vietnamese banh mi sandwich, a steal for about $4.25 each. Of course, you can cook simple, delicious meals at home for less. But when we spend $60 or more on a meal for two, we expect it to be good. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case tonight in Olympia.

En route to Seattle (on rainy, Thanksgiving-traffic-clogged I-5), on a whim we stopped for dinner in the charming capital city of Olympia on the south Puget Sound. We considered Trinacria, a supposedly stellar red sauce and homemade pasta joint whose name (the term for “Kingdom of Sicily”) reminded us of an Italian deli we loved in Baltimore. Then we got a hankering for oysters, reading that the petite native species has been revived here. The obvious Oyster House seemed too touristy. We wanted to eat oyster burgers and shooters at the Fish Brewing Company pub, but alas, no minors–no one under 21–not even a five-month-old baby who subsists on breastmilk–are allowed on the premises. Just like at our beloved Squirrel’s Tavern in Corvallis. Having kids does limit your choices. We were directed instead to Ramblin’ Jacks, which had a hip vibe but alas no oysters (just fried pickle chips) on the menu.
Sometimes you just become too blinded by a quest for something like oysters. We should have been content with wood-fired pizza at Ramblin’ Jacks. We would have had a great meal at the brewery, if not with child. Somehow we found ourselves at the dated seafood and brunch-focused Budd Bay Cafe only because they had pan-fried oysters on the menu. The excessive Christmas decor and cloying Christmas music should have been a sign. They didn’t have oysters fresh enough to serve on half-shell, just the pan-fried “Pacific Northwest” variety. Their salmon was King, but farm-raised. Discerning diners know better out here. Budd Bay’s was hardly a locavore, but rather a Sysco-inspired, menu. I just no longer have a tolerance for white tablecloth, country club-style food that is expensive, bland, uninspired and often inedible. Touristy waterfront seafood restaurants are often the worst offenders. You go to these restaurants–the Lobster Trap in Maine, Gracie’s Sea Hag in Depot Bay, Ore., the Rusty Scupper in Baltimore, Jake’s in Hull, Mass.–with such expectations. The menu items tempt–the fish descriptions sound so fresh–you have the illusion it was just plucked from the water outside the restaurant’s window. But the dishes generally disappoint. Usually, the seafood is fried and the chowder’s too unctuous, thick and creamy, so you leave feeling a little sick and so wishing you’d spent your $60 elsewhere.
So we wasted our one meal in Olympia. Somehow I just felt cheated, because I told the hostess-owner we were there to try to the local oysters. So I felt betrayed when we weren’t served the local delicacy. Sure, they were Washington-raised oysters, but they were the much larger, less delicate and briny Pacific variety. And they weren’t even that fresh. They were the last oysters left in the bucket, bathing in a sludgy liquor. She went to retrieve the container when I asked if not the local Olympia oysters where they were from. I know I seemed like the characters in Portlandia who ask in a restaurant about the source of their poultry, abruptly getting up to go visit the local chicken farm. But this is what I care about. I want to know what species of oyster I’m eating and where it was raised. I expect it to be fresh. I wanted to vote with my dollars and my tastebuds for the Olympia oyster, to support ecological efforts to revive the Pacific Northwest’s only native species. But sadly out-of-touch restaurants like the Budd Bay Cafe, who care more about boasting waterfront views than sourcing quality local ingredients, just don’t get it.

Written by baltimoregon

November 28, 2011 at 12:42 am

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