What It Takes

For as much time as I spend working for and with farms I spend a very small amount of time actually on farms. I recently spent several hours at Sauvie Island Organics and in that time learned more about soil ecology, biology and chemistry and related strategies employed to bring a palatable variety of produce to my table, than I can convey here.  I don’t fully understand how cover crops create conditions in the soil to enable minerals and nutrients of all kinds to be available to both the plant and eventually us, the eaters. I can’t imagine the complexity of having a handful of different soil types on one small farm and the different methods and crops rotations it takes for each one to produce delicious and nutritious food year after year.

All this to say, I was reminded of Slow Food Founder Carlo Petrini’s point that farmers are some of the most skilled workers on earth and that we should hold them in the same esteem we hold folks with PhD’s (and paid accordingly and that’s up to us eaters in great part). And I was humbled to really stop and think about what it takes to grow the produce I eat every day.  So, as CSA and farmers’ market season come into full swing I want to thank all the farmers and producers–the ones who fight with row cover on windy days; who plant gorgeous (and useful) swaths of flowers to attract the bugs that then eat the harmful bugs in the neighboring plots; who manually weed the onions so they grow big and juicy; who harvest and wash and pack a dozen varieties of greens each week–for ALL they do so that we can eat and thrive. Let’s make them thrive! Sign up for a CSA*, shop your local farmers’ market and get a glimpse of what these farmers are doing for our soil, water, flora and fauna, not to mention our communities and our table. The future of food is the future!

* The farms that subscribe to my Seasonal Recipe Collection for the benefit of their members are 47th Ave Farm, Sauvie Island OrganicsSun Gold Farm, Minto Island Growers, Love Farm Organics, Long Run Farm, and Kookoolan Farms, if you’re in the Willamette Valley, OR and Mud Creek Farm (NY), The Good Earth (SD), Evermore Farm (MD) in other parts of the country.

Salad, Soup, Patties: One Ingredient, So Many Options

aspargus bulgur mustard greens lemony vinMaria Speck (author of cookbooks Simply Ancient Grains and Ancient Grains for Modern Meals) is inspiring, knowledgable and endlessly creative when it comes to this vast category of flavor, texture, culture, . . . Hearing her talk about her youth in Greece and Germany and her mother’s simple, deeply flavorful, fresh food and her own many decades of cooking all over the world made my mouth water. Her philosophy echoed mine: fresh produce and simple staples, cooked at the beginning of the week, can be the foundation of many a meal. She reminded me of bulgur. I have neglected my jar of it for many months and I had a busy week so I figured I’d cook a pot of it and see how I could use it throughout the week.

Monday: Salad of roasted asparagus, mustard greens, arugula, radishes, bulgur, toasted sunflower seeds and a lemony vinaigrette (recipe below).

Tuesday: Added bulgur to chicken soup for my son’s school lunch.

Wednesday: Black beans in their broth topped with bulgur (that I had toasted in a small skillet in some olive oil which gave it an extra dimension), cilantro and harissa.

Thursday: Broccoli and bulgur patties with cilantro, eggs, a bit of sharp cheddar and more harissa (recipe on the Seasonal Recipe Collection).

Greens, Asparagus and Bulgur Salad with Lemony Vinaigrette

Serves 4-6 depending on what else is being served

3/4 cup cooked, cooled bulgur (see below)
7 or so fat spears of asparagus (I prefer the fat ones for this but any will do)
Olive Oil
3-4 radishes (optional but beautiful and delicious), washed and cut into small dice or thinly sliced
5-6 cups tender, spicy greens like mustard greens, arugula, mizuna or any chicory, washed, dried and cut into ribbons or bites-sized pieces (I used mustard greens and arugula in this version)
1/2 cup cilantro, leaves and stems, chopped
2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1/3 – 1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds (toss raw seeds with a little olive oil and salt and spread on sheet pan and roast for about 10 minutes at 350 until golden)

2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced and mashed up a bit with the side of a chef’s knife or put through press
2 tablespoons lemon juice (or cider or red wine vinegar)
5 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Set your oven to broil. Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus. Put the washed spears on a sheet pan and drizzle with just a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Broil, turning once, for about 10 minutes until browning and tender. Remove from oven and let cool. Slice into 1/2-inch slices on the bias.

Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl or shake them up in a tightly sealed jam jar. I make this type of dressing in a jar and top if off as needed all week. You may have more dressing than you need for this salad so the jar method is a good one here.

Put all the salad ingredients in a large blow. Add about 3/4 of the dressing and toss well. Taste and adjust with salt, lemon, etc. and/or add more dressing. Serve immediately.

To cook the bulgur: Bring 1 3/4 cups water or broth (I used homemade veggie bouillon broth) and several pinches of salt (if you’re using water) to boil in a saucepan. Add 1 cup of bulgur and stir well. Simmer the bulgur, covered for 10 minutes. Turn off the burner and keep the pan covered and let the bulgur steam for 10 more minutes. Fluff with a fork and use as needed. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

moro beans bulgur harissa

Soupy black beans topped with bulgur (warmed up by toasting in a skillet with some olive oil), cilantro and harissa.


Quinoa & Tangerine Salad

“Interesting combination” said the eight-year-old, . . . “fantastic” said the husband, helping himself to thirds. “It’s worth repeating”, said the cook. . . who enjoyed the leftovers for breakfast this morning. Quinoa and Tangerine Salad  11/2 cups quinoa Scant 2 cups water Several generous pinches salt 3 tangerines or […] Read more »