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The reward of the leek

leekA few weeks ago, I found myself having a portrait session with a leek. Just she, my camera and a dirty – or as I like to say, “Well loved” – sheet pan, which provided the background for the photo. I say “she” because to me the leek is feminine. Maybe it’s the frilly tuft of hair at the base, which used to be tucked well underground. Or perhaps it’s the elongated body in all shapes and sizes, with each as beautiful as the next. Then there are the top bright green leafy layers that extend out almost like a ball gown. It could be the subtle flavor of the leek that has me calling a vegetable a “she,” seeing it is not as aggressive as an onion. It often takes a bit of heat and gentle coaxing for you to get to know the real beauty of the leek. But if you put in the time and show the leek patience, you will be rewarded with great sweetness and a soft, yet complex flavor. 

Leeks are indeed a member of the onion family – a varied family tree with branches of shallots, garlic, chives and scallions. Unlike some of its cousins, leeks have a subtle flavor which benefits from long and slow roasting or braising. This mellow flavor marries well with seafood.

A well raised leek will have bright green leaves at the top and a firm, unblemished white stalk. Sand, grit and dirt like to hide well into the many layers of leeks, so it’s important that you clean them well. First, you will need to remove the outer layer of the leek, which tends to be a bit tough, unless it is extremely fresh. Cut off the hair (aka, the roots) and the darkest green parts of the top. Slice the leeks in half, exposing all those layers and run running water through them, as you use your hands to gently separate the layers. Drain the leeks well. If the recipe calls for chopped leeks, as the one below does, it is best to chop the leeks and then place in a bowl of water to remove any bits of dirt. Drain well before using.

The recipe below braises two chopped leeks in bacon. Not a bad way to braise, I’d say, but if bacon isn’t for you, you can simply use butter or olive oil in its place. The leeks will wilt in the fat and just slowly begin to caramelize. Leeks that have cooked slowly become tender and almost melt in your mouth in a way that butter does. With all this talk about slow cooking, I should also mention that leeks are great raw too – sliced thinly and added to greens loaded with fresh herbs and a touch of olive oil and lemon, well it’s just about the most perfect spring salad I can imagine. 

Today’s recipe is typical of our weeknight meals. It’s simple, comes together quickly and can be varied in any number of ways, depending on what’s lingering in the crisper. I love the creamy tang of goat cheese, the sweet onion flavor and the smoky bacon. It’s hearty and satisfying without leaving you feeling heavy. I hope you and your family enjoys it as much as we do.

by Ashley Rodriguez
food blogger
www.notwithoutsalt.com

FETTUCCINE WITH GOAT CHEESE, LEEKS AND BACON
Ingredients:    
8 slices of bacon, roughly chopped
2 medium leeks
½ cup (4 ounces) goat cheese (chevre)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 pound fettuccine
Grated Parmesan and fresh parsley for finishing

Directions:
Cook the pasta then drain reserving some of the pasta water. Add the pasta to a large bowl.
In a large sauté pan cook the bacon until crisp. Chop the white part of the leeks in rough 1/4” rounds and add to the bacon. Cook until leeks are tender, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the thyme then remove from heat.
Stir in the bacon and goat cheese mixture with the pasta. Add pasta water as needed to make a creamy sauce. Finish with grated Parmesan and chopped parsley. Serve while hot.

 

 

 

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At some point a line was crossed

The events of last week have to do with a breakdown of civilization. The Boston Marathon bombing was cold, calculating and horrific. This is the worst of mankind and it was on display. The hearts of these young men were so hardened that they had become numb to the preciousness of life.

Those two men had choices, several choices, before they left those crock pot bombs in the middle of innocent crowds. Normal people, just like us, gathering to see their loved ones accomplish an amazing thing. And to have the dreams and lives of innocent people shattered by this hatred and act of cowardice was deploring.

Sadly, this type of cowardice is on display all over the world and all too frequently. But every man, woman and child, every lawmaker, car mechanic or housewife has choices too. But at some point, these young men crossed over the line of decency and moved from disrespect to anger to murder, cold and merciless murder, perpetrated on the innocent. Not that it would be any less heinous to go after individuals in the law enforcement ranks or in the armed services, but at least these individuals are trained to defend themselves.

These two young men, and many more in our society, have lost respect for human life and probably all life including their own. This is a huge issue for America and the world. Sadly, many people are no longer able or willing to have a civil discussion about anything.  And the basic tenant, that individuals have rights and their lives are important, is taking a back seat to our “opinions or world views” and thus making life less valuable or unnecessary.

As the events unfolded, I found myself grieving for the families and the community of Boston. This was such a senseless act, but when does evil ever make sense? And as the days progressed and the manhunt continued, I was grieving also for those young men. I wanted them to turn themselves in and for the carnage to stop. Yes, I wanted justice, but not revenge.

More killing is not the answer, but giving those two young men a chance to face their evil, experience the penalty for their actions, and be remorse for the senselessness of their actions.

As we know now, one has had to answer to Jesus immediately, and the other will have a chance to be healed physically, emotionally and spiritually. And the lives of those directly impacted by the blasts, the very lives of those innocent will also need a chance to heal physically, emotionally and spiritually.

There is no hope in hate, only in respect, but it is a respect that says an individual’s life is important. For this reason alone, acts of violence or murder are wrong. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, what country you live in or even what religion or belief system you follow. Your life is important because you are a human being created in the image of God.

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Banana-Date-Almond Smoothie

image_1This smoothie has the perfect amount of sweetness, and it is so wonderfully creamy you actually feel like you are having a milkshake!

INGREDIENTS

1 cup organic unsweetened almond milk
1 organic banana (preferably frozen)
2 tablespoons organic almond butter
2-3 dried dates, pitted
1 teaspoon organic vanilla (optiona)
A small handfull of ice cubes (if your banana wasn’t frozen)

PREPARATION

Add all the ingredients to your blender and process until smooth!

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A Little History

I didn't grow up on a farm. I occasionally picked some snap beans for Grandma and then snapped them with her. But how did a city boy from south Everett, that ran cross country and played soccer around the clock, ever become a farmer? 

May I share with you a little Klesick Family Farm history? Joelle and I got married in 1989, when I was working for a startup biotech company. But in 1991, when our first son, Micah, was on the way, I got the nudge to make a little more money and found a job at Maryatt Industries as a Route Salesman delivering uniforms, rugs, mops, etc. to businesses in Seattle. This is where I learned the ins and outs of running a delivery business. A few years later, I transferred to the Portland, Oregon branch with the same responsibilities. 

One of my customers was a high-end produce store.  Eventually, we made the career move to leave a good paying job to go to work for minimum wage at the produce store. It was tight financially, but Joelle and I both new that if we waited much longer, it would be harder to make the switch. So with 2 kiddos and one on the way, we took the boldest step and stepped backwards financially to eventually move forward. I worked two jobs for three years to make ends meet. Those are still some of the sweetest years of our journey. But it was at the produce store where I learned the produce business and met my first organic farmers. It was here that my desire to be a farmer was kindled. 

We had no land to match our desire, but we did plant a garden—a whopping 32 sq. ft.!  Eventually, it was time to move back to Snohomish County. There, in 1997, I started a produce store in Mountlake Terrace at Manna Mills. They did the groceries and I did the produce. It was a great fit! So now Joelle and I are running our own produce business called The Organic Produce Shoppe. Not soon after, we moved to Machais and finally had a half acre to start farming. It was in Machais where we transitioned to home delivery full-time and farming part-time in 1999. A few years later, in 2003, we moved to our current farm in Stanwood. Now we farm 40 acres of vegetables, tree fruit, berries and grass-fed beef. 

Everyone has a journey, our family journey included training as a delivery driver for the home delivery portion of our business, training as a produce person, so I could understand how and what to buy for you and finally "on the job" training as a farmer. Today we work with an incredible team of packers, drivers and office folk to bring you, every week, the freshest and healthiest fruits and vegetables available.  And, ironically, after over 20 years of journeying, my path and desire to farm have intersected. 

Now, I also have the privilege of being your local farmer.

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Artichoke-Potato Soup

artichoke-soupINGREDIENTS

6 artichoke hearts (fresh, frozen, or jarred)*
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 T butter or margarine
1 potato, peeled (optional) and diced
4 c vegetable stock
salt
pepper

PREPARATION

Prepping the artichokes

1. Rinse the artichokes in running cold water.

2. Slice about 3/4 inch to an inch off the tip of the artichoke.

3. In a large pot, put a couple inches of water, a clove of garlic, a slice of lemon, and a bay leaf (this adds wonderful flavor to the artichokes). Insert a steaming basket. Add the artichokes. Cover. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 25 to 45 minutes or until the outer leaves can easily be pulled off. Note: artichokes can also be cooked in a pressure cooker (about 15-20 minutes cooking time). Cooking time depends on how large the artichoke is, the larger, the longer it takes to cook.

4. Pull off outer petals, one at a time.

5. Scrape white fleshy end with a spoon. Discard remaining petal. Continue until all of the petals are removed.

3. With a knife or spoon, scrape out and discard the inedible fuzzy part (called the "choke") covering the artichoke heart. The remaining bottom of the artichoke is the heart. 

Making the Soup

1. Heat butter over medium heat, and sauté the chopped artichoke hearts and garlic, stirring frequently, until golden.

2. Add potato and stock, bring to a boil, lower heat, cover, and simmer about 10 minutes, until the veggies are tender.

3. Blend potato and artichokes with a little bit of the cooking liquid until smooth. Transfer back to the pan, season with salt and pepper, stir the purée into the remaining liquid, and reheat.

4. Serve immediately.

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Spring Farm Musings

8364_10151575311876145_1157698364_nOh my, was that two weeks before Easter incredible. Everything was warming up and drying out and the soil was getting to planting quality, but not perfect.  I spent all last weekend wishing I could get more peas planted (almost done), my strawberries planted (half done) and get some spuds in the ground (none done). This amount of rain will take 4 or 5 days to begin to dry out. Thankfully, it is still very early in the season and most of my crops will go “in” from the end of April through June. 

The frustrating thing about farming is you have to take what is given and make the best choice at that time. When the weather first “broke” a few weeks ago, I waited. Then it stayed nice and I was compelled, no…drawn, no…wooed, yes…“wooed” by the farm to come and begin the season. So, cautiously, I fired up the tractor and started working the ground. The ground was willing, but not ready to begin.  If our farm was a sandy soil it would have been perfect, but we are more of a clay loam. Clay loams are great for holding soil moisture into August, but not so great for “working” early.  Alas, rarely is anything perfect and the soil responded to produce an acceptable seedbed.

With the forecasted weather change coming, I planted.  I really wanted a few more days, but none were coming and now I know that none are coming for a while. The rub is that if it stays on a warming trend from mid-March through April, the farm will give up a lot of field moisture early that would normally carry us through dry summer months. It will also cause the grass to dry out sooner and affect our grazing rotations for the cattle. But, conversely, many crops love an early spring and if a farmer catches it right, you can have some amazing spinach, lettuce and pea crops.  

But I have learned to not trust March and only wade in; after all,the water is rarely warm in March.  So now I find myself wondering if my pea seeds will germinate, partially germinate or rot—time will tell. A little concerned about the strawberries and how they will fare. I am thankful that I didn’t plant my potatoes. But I am also happy that this past March’s nice warm weather won’t deplete my soil moisture for the cattle and late summer crops.

As a farmer, there is almost always a crop or season in which you can find a “silver lining.” You might have to look a little harder or change your attitude/ perspective, but every season has a blessing buried in it. And if you find yourself in such a season of instability or insecurity, take a deep breath, dig a little deeper and unbury that blessing –it will warm your heart and get you through that moment.
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Blood Orange Sorbet

Blood-orange-sorbet-1A cup of sunshine!

1. Juice your blood oranges. Then measure the juice.

2. For each 1 cup (250ml) of juice, figure 1/4 cup (50g) of organic granulated cane sugar to be added.

3. Put the sugar in a small, non-reactive saucepan. Add just enough juice to saturate it very well. Heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is completely dissolved.

4. Stir the sugar back into the reserved blood orange juice.

5. Chill thoroughly, then freeze in your ice cream maker.

Photo: http://www.52kitchenadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Blood-orange-sorbet-1.jpg

Original Recipe: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2008/02/blood-orange-so/

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Spring is here! Share the Good Contest

share-the-good

Get ½ off, Give ½ off, Win a Juicer!

Are you ready to shed those bulky winter clothes? It is not unusual to let your attention to healthy eating lapse a bit in the winter. After all, aren’t those cozy — and bulky — woolen sweaters sometimes just a little too comfy? But spring is here, and it's time to get back out there and show the world what you're made of.

A strong support system is key when it comes to keeping healthy eating habits. Friends, family members, and neighbors are not only a pivotal part of your success, you can play a huge roll in their health as well! This season, we want to partner with you in the goal to Share the Good!

Here are the details: Refer your friends to our delivery service and get your next Box of Good 50% OFF. PLUS, you’ll be entered into our contest for the chance to win a Champion Commercial Juicer valued at $320!

How it works: 
    •    The contest takes place April 1-30, 2013.
    •    When we receive a referral from you, BOTH you and your referral will receive 50% OFF your next box of good when the person whom you refer to our service signs up for delivery, he/she must give your name as the person who referred him/her.
    •    Each time you refer a person, your name will be entered into the prize drawing once. The more people you refer, the more times your name will be entered into the drawing and the greater your chance of winning. 
    •    We will choose the winner through random selection on May 1, 2013. The winner will be notified immediately thereafter.

Now for the small print:
    •    You must be a current customer to win.
    •    Your referral person must actually sign up and place an order to qualify. New customers who create an account, but do not place an order within the April 1-30, 2013 time period do not qualify as a referral.
    •    For each person you refer, you will still receive one of our standard referral gifts as a thank you.

We are excited about making your referrals more rewarding! So spread the word—email, Facebook, tweet—and share the good!

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Not Without Salt

6422969609_60f7843efb_b-625x469Have you ever tasted potatoes without salt? Or even a cookie without a whisper of salt mixed in with the flour? It’s no surprise that I’m passionate about this ingredient; I mean, my blog is named after it after all—www.notwithoutsalt.com. So, I thought it appropriate that we talk about it here. In the few paragraphs I have with you all, I want to first assuage the bad reputation salt has received over the years, then talk about how to salt and finally to share a couple recipes where salt really shines, not just in flavor, but in its power to preserve and transform the texture of certain foods.

Salt calms bitterness, heightens sweetness, helps pull out hidden flavors, has the power to preserve and we need it. Salt is used in our bodies to maintain fluid in our blood cells and transmit information in our nerves and muscles. Because our body cannot make it on its own, we need to feed our bodies some salt—“some” being the key word. The overindulgence on salt in the recent years doesn’t come from over-salting the real foods you are cooking in your kitchen, but rather it’s the sudden influx of processed foods. As we’ve turned towards producing foods cheaply, we’ve lost much of the flavor in the ingredients used, thereby needing to saturate the food with salt in order to get it to have any taste. When you are adding salt in the process of cooking your own food, there is little concern with adding too much to affect your health in a negative way. 

Now that we’re not afraid of it, let’s talk about using salt while we are cooking. Have you ever noticed how much better restaurant food can taste when you compare it with what we cook at home? Most often, it’s because a good chef knows how to use salt. When you are cooking, use salt throughout the entire process. When you do this, every component of the dish is properly seasoned. Carrots will taste sweeter, onions more pronounced and spices more flavorful. If you wait to salt only at the end, your food will taste of salt, but as you salt throughout, the dish really comes together and you taste the ingredients rather than the salt. Taste throughout the entire process. Add more salt if needed and quit salting if there’s too much. This way you have more control on the final product. Also, salt your food from up high, this way the salt is dispersed evenly throughout the dish. 

In my kitchen I have a variety of salts. I use kosher when I’m cooking and a good flaky sea salt for the end. The kosher salt is course, so I can feel how much I’m adding as I’m pinching it between my fingers. It’s also not nearly as harsh as table salt. The finishing salt adds a nice crunch to the final and slowly dissolves on the tongue, giving a saltiness that builds. These salts are also not nearly as harsh as table salt.
Now let’s get cooking. The first recipe I want to share is for a raw zucchini salad. In this salad the salt is added to sliced zucchini then left to marinate. The texture of the zucchini softens while the flavor is brought out. The zucchini is quickly rinsed then tossed with a bright vinaigrette and loads of fresh herbs. 

Then finally, we have preserved lemons. It’s really as simple as cut lemons left to marinate in salt and its own juices, but what happens in that jar is nothing short of magic. Somehow the lemons become perfumed and floral. They are salty, yes, but not harshly so. It’s the sort of ingredient that when added to dressings, marinades, salads, poultry, etc. your guest won’t know what it is, except that they love it. Preserved lemons are used all over Morocco and it’s there where I decided I needed them in my life. Now my fridge is rarely without them.

Entire books can be written on the subject; in fact, there are several that I’d recommend, but somehow I think I may be part of a lone few who enjoy spending weekends reading about salt. But my hope is that this sort of crash course on the subject shares with you just a bit of my passion for this necessary ingredient. If you’ve yet to be convinced, I’ll let the recipes change your mind. Happy salting!

by Ashley Rodriguez
food blogger
www.notwithoutsalt.com

 

RAW ZUCCHINI SALAD
This recipe is from Rhulman’s 20. Serves 4.
Ingredients:
1 zucchini, cut into thin slices or long peeled strips
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup fresh herbs
    
Directions:
Put the zucchini in a colander and sprinkle evenly with 1 teaspoon salt. Toss and sprinkled evenly with another 1 teaspoon salt. Let stand for 10-20 minutes. 
In a small bowl combine the shallot, garlic, lemon juice and oil. Whisk to combine.
Shake the moisture off the zucchini. Taste and if it is too salty give the zucchini a quick rinse in cold water, then pat dry with a clean towel.
Toss the zucchini with the vinaigrette and finish with the fresh herbs. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. 
Serve immediately.

PRESERVED LEMONS
Adapted from Paula Wolfert, The Food of Morocco
Ingredients:
5 lemons (Meyer lemons work beautifully here)
1/4 cup salt, more if desired
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
5 coriander seeds
2 bay leaves

Directions:
Have ready a sterile 1-pint canning jar.
Quarter the lemons from the top to within 1/2 inch of the bottom, sprinkle salt on the interior of the lemon, then reshape the fruit.
Place 1 tablespoon salt on the bottom of the mason jar. Pack in the lemons and push them down, adding more salt, and the optional spices between layers. Press the lemons down to release their juices and to make room for the remaining lemons. (If the juice released from the squashed fruit does not cover them, add freshly squeezed lemon juice — Leave some air space before sealing the jar.
Let the lemons ripen in a warm place, shaking the jar each day to distribute the salt and juice. Let ripen for 30 days. To use, rinse the lemons, as needed, under running water, removing and discarding the pulp, if desired — and there is no need to refrigerate after opening. Preserved lemons will keep up to a year, and the pickling juice can be used two or three times over the course of a year.
Gently shake the jar each day to distribute the salt.