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April 2007

April 28, 2007

Wahkiakum County’s 3rd Annual Ag Summit

tomatoes

Join local food enthusiasts and farmers on Saturday, May 5th to network and hear from agricultural and marketing experts, and learn to tap into expanding markets for organic and locally produced foods.rob stockhouse's assorted potatoes

The event begins at 9:30 a.m. with keynote speaker Tim Crosby of 21 Acre Farm in Woodinville, Washington.  Crosby was recently featured in the Capital Press emphasizing the value of eating locally produced foods to food security and the economy. "When food is fresh, local and tied to farmers who are benefiting their communities, everyone comes out ahead," he explained.

 

Morning sessions will also include Gary Burkhalter, a Rosburg dairy farmer, speaking on his family farm’s transition to organic and selling through the Organic Valley cooperative.

speranza's bread

A representative from the WSDA Organic program will speak in the afternoon on organic certification.  Afternoon sessions also include Mary Embleton, executive director of Cascade Harvest Coalition and Puget Sound Fresh.  She’ll speak on their promotion of Puget Sound farms with the Puget Sound Fresh brand.  Also, we’ll hear from Jennifer Johnson, Wahkiakum Chamber of Commerce director, on local efforts to create a regional brand for products grown in the Lower Columbia region.

pies from the twin gables bed and breakfast

Lunch is available for a small fee.  Call or e-mail Carrie at the WSU Wahkiakum County Extension office to RSVP: 795-3278 (cakennedy@wsu.edu)

Mark your calendar:
    Saturday, May 5th, 9:30 – 3:30
    River Street Meeting Room
    25 River Street, Cathlamet, WA

Hope to see you there!

(all food is from members of the Wahkiakum Food and Farm Network, photographed at the Two Islands Farm Market last summer - click on a photo to go to the flickr page for that picture and see which of the great farms or other food producers is responsible for a particular product...)

April 27, 2007

revisiting Gastroblogia

In honor of International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day, albeit a bit belatedly, I extend this bit of linky love to Miz D. of Belly-Timber who reminded me of this marvelously funny bit of writing: Mighty Cheese Warriors: An Historical Perspective

For anyone who was around during the Pete Wells cheese sandwich absurdity, here's a chance to revisit one of the sweetest pieces of writing to come out of that affair. Newcomers might want to read Kalyn's backgrounder (the link in this paragraph) before going on to Mighty Cheese Warriors.

I'd also like to welcome Miz D. back, she's been MIA for a bit while relocating and resettling and I've missed her and Chopper Dave's antics. She's one of my favorite pixel-stained technopeasant wretches.

April 25, 2007

pizza is a gateway bread...

shallot-sausage-asiago-pizza

Many people, even accomplished cooks, approach yeasted bread with more than a bit of trepidation. While the vision of a beautifully risen loaf of bread with a glossy, caramelized crust lures many a would-be baker, the reality all too often remains sadly out of reach.

I think the fact that there are so few ingredients-flour, water, yeast, and salt are essential, all else is embellishment-is intimidating. It seems to put so much responsibility on the baker. Daunting.

Depending on how you go about learning to bake bread, the process can be daunting. Bread baking has its own terminology (some in French), techniques that look simple can be anything but, and who knew there were so many kinds of flour? It is little wonder that many people don't even know where to start. If only they had someone to tell them...

                                                                                  psssst

 

Pizza.

 

Seriously, that's where you start: Pizza.

I see pizza is the perfect starter bread for a number of reasons:

pizza crust with sauce and basil

  • Tolerance is good. Pizza dough tolerates a lot of mistakes and abuse. As long as you don't do something truly dreadful-like forget the yeast or let the dough sit on the counter for two days-you will turn out a decent pizza. The first few may not be great, but with extremely rare exceptions, the worst homemade pizza is better than the best frozen pizza (and quite a few that you can have delivered).
  • Size matters. As bread goes, pizzas are small so, unlike a loaf of bread, they aren't much of a commitment. Seriously, the time it takes to use up a loaf of bread you really don't like, yet feel obliged to eat, can seem endless. Pizza, on the other hand, is usually gone the day it is made.
  • awesomeGrrl putting toppings on her pizza

  • Take your time. There are a number of discrete processes involved in making a pizza: mixing dough, preparing toppings, shaping crust, assembling, and so on. The entire process can be done more or less at once or spread out over the course of a couple of days (making the dough the first day and baking the pizza the second or third)
  • It takes a village. One of my favorite simple foods to cook with other people is pizza. It's a perennial favorite, infinitely adaptable, simple to make once you get the hang of it, and best of all, most people will gleefully jump in and cook with you. Nothing livens up a party like gathering around a kitchen island to decorate pizza.
  • Teach your children well... Pizza is a marvelous teaching opportunity because anyone who is old enough to eat pizza is old enough to help make it, even if only a tiny bit. A toddler can stand on a chair and help you put on chunky (thus easy to grab) toppings. As children get older, and gain skills and confidence, they can take on more of the work.
  • awesomeGrrl rolling out pizza crust

  • To each her (or his) own. Individual pizzas are the best. Most people love the control of building their own food, exactly the way they want it. Sometimes this encourages people, particularly small folk, to stretch their own boundaries a bit-I have watched kids who normally eschew vegetables pile onions, peppers, and olives on their pizzas and eat them with gusto.
  • Money, money, money, money! According to Pizza Marketing Quarterly, US sales of pizza edged over 31 Billion dollars in 2005. At 10-15 bucks a pie, that's a lot of dough! Compare that to the cost of making your own pizza-under a dollar for the dough, another buck or two on toppings-and the cost argument is simple.
  • chicken calzones made with Susan's pizza crust

  • Bend me, shape me, any way you want to. Once you have basic pizza down, you can move on to any number of variations. Calzones are one of my favorite uses for leftover dough, but you can use the dough for anything from breadsticks to foccacia. Just change how the dough is shaped and filled/topped and you have a whole new creation.
  • I can fix that pizza in two notes! Most problems with pizza come down to two things: insufficient heat and too many toppings. The cure for the first is simple, buy a baking stone, preheat it in a 500° (or hotter) oven for an hour and bake the pizza as hot as you dare. The issue of too many toppings is between you and your self control.

The first step in your pizza quest is trying out some crust recipes. I have three suggestions: Kevin Weeks, Farmgirl Susan, and mine. They each offer a different take on pizza crust, both in process and results. Susan's dough is quick and particularly easy to work with, although Kevin's is seriously good too and worth waiting the extra hours for. Mine is...different. Check them out. Then come back and show us what you made.

April 17, 2007

I promise you an herb garden...

sage flowers

Once upon a time, the kitchenMage had the herb garden of her dreams. Wisteria draped the entrance arbor, opening onto a herringbone path interplanted with thyme and moss and edged with lavender and a plethora of mints. Herbs, both common and rare, filled this garden and new finds were constantly finding their way there. Rare thymes and more mints than she could name filled the beds, and the air, with intoxicating scents. A few choice trees also lived there: the prized sweet bay, a pink dogwood bent near horizontal from its attempts to survive its old home, and the maples (no two the same) that defined the border.

Oh, I'm sorry! I was daydreaming there for a minute.

While I would love to have that herb garden again (and it is worth a look, although I apologize for the old, not so great photos) the sad fact is that I don't. Worse, I won't have anything like it for a few more years to come. A few summers from now, I expect to once again walk through a garden like that, although not too much like that.

I have a new house and a new "yard" - if one can call close to nine acres a yard - but after two years, the new garden remains unplanted. When we arrived, the little beds around the house's foundation looked like builders had done the planting: some unkempt low junipers and dozens of pansies, in a stunning array of magenta and white-one shade of each. Boring! (When the foxglove and daisies that had been hidden in winter, when we bought the place, first emerged, it seemed fitting somehow that they were also white and purple.)

Frankly, the only thing to recommend the gardened areas was the blueberry patch. The untended space, mostly Douglas firs (originally planted for timber harvest) with fern-laden undergrowth edged up against wild fog forest, has more to recommend it, including the wildlife. At least most of the time.

chives01

Call me naïve, but I really hadn't counted on the sheer volume of critters in the yard. In addition to the deer and small creatures common to the cusp of field and wood, there's an elk herd - numbering from a dozen to many times that, depending on how close we are to hunting season - wanders through on their way from on valley to the next. I don't even want to think about what the neighbor's escaped cows did to the poor magnolia!

There was a bit of momentary panic at the thought of doing without any herb garden while I wait for fencing to protect my treasures from marauding beasts before I put them in harm's way. Really good fencing. Luckily, it was winter and I really couldn't do much beyond sulk at the idea of life sans garden. That and watch the critters.

Over the first couple of months, I noticed that nary a critter has ventured close enough to the house to see, let alone nibble, the beds of evergreen blobs and rampant pansies. Go figure.

One day it dawned on me. They never came close to the house.

Those beds, filled with plants I found neither useful nor, truth be told, attractive were rapidly emptied and replaced with an herb garden that, while not quite so poetic as the old one, is wonderfully functional and quite lovely in its own way.

This small scale gardening has also been a learning experience. rosemary and chivesThe prominent location and shallow beds call for plants that are beautiful as well as aromatic and tasty so I have selected colorful varieties of some favored herbs: Tri-color and golden sage, variegated mint and thyme, and golden oregano, along with lots of edible flowers brighten front edges, while a swath of many mints thrives in the back, dry stripe under the roof overhang. My favorite rosemary has a home and creeping thyme softens the hard line between concrete and garden Best of all, there are chive clumps everywhere! And I must admit I love being able to step outside in bare feet to harvest herbs, something that was more difficult in the large garden.

it's all edible!

 

 

 

Establishing some plants has been a struggle. The first winter killed all the expensive new tarragon plants and last
winter's freeze/flood cycle took out half of the rosemary yearlings. Those plants sometimes died at the old place too, but with room to plant a hundred rosemary cuttings, rather than a tenth that, half of them dying isn't quite so sad.

 

After two years though, almost everything I need for cooking is here. There isn't a lot of some things, the thyme collection is short a few things (lavender and caraway evade me) and I can't find any lime mint. But there is enough to cook with daily and share with friends. And it is lovely, not looking at all like it was planted as a functional garden. More than one person has commented that it looks like a park.

This garden has also led to my conviction that any small space - even yours - can be transformed into a gorgeous herb garden that will rock your culinary world. Thoughtful plant selection and placement can result in a garden that will improve both your cooking and your yard.

While I know this isn't my old herb garden, it will do for now. In fact, even after the large garden goes in, the little one stays. I just need a cat-sized wisteria arbor.

the sage corner in herbgarden early may

(my herb garden set on flickr)

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