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Kitchen Talk

Joelle and I have a rhythm to our cooking. I love to make food and then she loves to make it taste great! She could never work at Panera or IHOP, where the only ingredients seem to be sodium and sugar.  Joelle has a unique ability to discern what is missing, and how much to add or not. I, on the other hand, tend towards lots of veggies and texture and then leave the final pass to Joelle. 

Speaking of the “Pass,” I have been watching the Netflix show called The Chef’s Line. In this series, there are 4 home cooks who cook against a restaurant’s team of chefs.  Each series features a different culture, and the home cooks are either from that culture, or love to cook that cultures food. I don’t have a significant amount of time to watch shows, but these 22-minute episodes are a nice break to decompress and get inspired at the same time. 

I would never qualify as a home cook on this show, because I love to cook all the cultures from Indian, to Italian, to Vegan (smile), to Mexican. It sort of belies the fact that American cuisine is truly a melting pot of cultures and flavors and, well…there really isn’t any one thing that I gravitate towards. I just love to cook them all and eat it. 

I do gravitate towards simple cooking, and I usually make 6 to 9 loaves of sourdough bread a week. I recently added flour tortillas to my rotation (I hate all that plastic that comes with purchasing flour tortillas). I love to bake sourdough bread. It is an unsophisticated art, where the results vary, and the outcome is always devoured. Last night, I set out my starter and fed it. Then, at 5am, I mix 200 grams of starter with 1000 grams of water and 1200 grams of flour, mix all of them together, let it set for 30 minutes, add 24 grams of salt and mix again. 

Flour is where I do become a local-vore. At our farm we sell Cairnspring Flours, and I exclusively bake with all local flours from Skagit county. I want to see local flours with regional integrity and flavors make a comeback. Cairnspring Mills is the connection to incredible flavor, and locally sourced nutrition. 

But I digress. After shaping bread and heading off to a Volleyball match in Snohomish, I called ahead on our way home and asked Joelle to heat up the oven to 450 degrees so I could bake off a loaf. And, much to my surprise and delight, our evening fire had burned down to coals, and the upper bake oven was at 475 degrees. That is a perfect temperature to bake bread, so I slid another loaf into the fireplace oven and will be taking them out at about the time I finish this newsletter, 45 minutes later. 

Tonight’s bread will truly embody the definition of hearth baked bread! And, as a side benefit, since all the kiddos are off to bed, the bread has a chance to cool down and last longer than 25 minutes before it is devoured! Okay, as much as I want the bread to last a little longer, it is satisfying when your family is eagerly waiting for several slices of fresh, out of the oven, baked bread!  

Time to go! The timer is beeping! 

-Tristan

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Sweet & Spicy Roasted Squash

Prep Time: 35 Minutes | Source: www.fitmittenkitchen.com

 Ingredients:

  • 2 small carnival squash
  • coconut oil (or avocado, olive)
  • coconut sugar (or brown)
  • cayenne pepper
  • ground cinnamon
  • all spice
  • cashew or almond butter drizzle (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F and grease a medium baking sheet with oil. Set aside.
  2. Cut tops and bottom off of squash and slice into rings. Cut out center of each ring to remove seeds. –If your squash is really hard to cut, allow to soften in preheating oven for about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Place rings on greased baking sheet and drizzle with oil, about 1-2 tablespoons. Lightly sprinkle on cayenne pepper (to taste), ground cinnamon, all spice and coconut sugar (about 1/2 tablespoon or so). Use hands to rub everything in and make sure squash is evenly coated.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes before checking and gently flipping over. Sprinkle with more seasoning and sugar if you wish, bake for another 10-20 minutes until soft.
  5. Allow squash to rest/cool on pan before serving. Drizzle with cashew or almond butter if your heart desires. Enjoy!
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I Spoke Too Soon

I should have known that as soon as I mention the word “Flood” last week in my newsletter, we would get a little teaser of what might happen. As of writing this newsletter, the forecasted rain event will cause the rivers to elevate, but not reach flood stage. And to NOAA and the National Weather Service’s credit they have been fairly accurate on their projections.

If it does flood, we will be updating our Instagram and Facebook pages as it unfolds. For me, boring is beautiful! My kids, on the other hand, love it when it floods! Something about no school and watching the river come over the banks. Mind you, we live in a part of the valley where the water rises slowly and, thankfully for us, our home is on a higher piece of ground. 

Let’s switch topics!

This week we are featuring a few items from 3 of my close farming friends. Anne at Blue Heron Farms in Concrete is supplying mustard greens. These will be a mustard mix that will be excellent in soup or stir fry. The beautiful thing about greens is, if you love them, you can’t get enough, and if they aren’t your favorite, adding them to soup helps them disappear, literally, because greens cook down quite a bit. 

We are also buying a Carrots and Green cabbage from Ralph’s Greenhouse. I have been working with Ralph’s Greenhouse for two decades. All of their produce is incredible, and we love to share their bounty with you.

The other farmer isn’t so local, but I have been buying Benzler grapes for just as long as I have been in business. Thomas and his family have been farming for 3 generations, and the fourth is on their way. It is interesting, when you talk with multigenerational farmers, how there is a deep sense of a need to pass on the farm. This week we will be featuring their red grapes and soon it will be their Navel oranges. 

Farming is about feeding people and caring for the land. I have been blessed for the better part of 25 years to be able to grow food, but also connect you to the bounty of others who are just as committed to healthy food as I am!

I am really excited to try the cabbage recipe this week. Roasted veggies are my favorite!

-Tristan

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Mustard Greens

Yield: 4 Servings | Prep Time: 20 Minutes | Source: www.simplyrecipes.com

 Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-pound mustard greens, washed and torn into large pieces
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chicken broth or vegetable broth (vegetarian option)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dark sesame oil

Instructions:

  1. In a large sauté pan, sauté onions in olive oil over medium heat until the onions begin to brown and caramelize, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook a minute more, until fragrant.
  2. Add the mustard greens and broth and cook until the mustard greens are just barely wilted.
  3. Toss with sesame oil. Season with salt and pepper.
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Roasted Cabbage

Yield: 4 Servings | Prep Time: 40 Minutes | Source: www.allrecipes.com

 Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 head green cabbage, cut into 4 wedges
  • 1 pinch garlic powder, or to taste
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 lemons, halved

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
  2. Brush both sides of each cabbage wedge with olive oil. Sprinkle garlic powder, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper over each wedge. Arrange wedges on a baking sheet.
  3. Roast in the preheated oven for 15 minutes; flip cabbage and continue roasting until browned and charred in some areas, about 15 minutes more. Squeeze lemon over each wedge.
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Braised Zucchini with Sun Gold Tomatoes & Basil

Yield: 2 Servings | Prep Time: 20 Minutes | Source: www.farmhousedelivery.com

 Ingredients:

  • 4 zucchini, washed and sliced lengthwise
  • 1/2 c. sun gold cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 small bunch basil, torn or cut into large pieces

Instructions:

  1. Heat olive oil in large skillet with high sides or braising pan.  
  2. When it shimmers, add zucchini and cook quickly until browned.  Remove to a bowl and set aside.  
  3. Add a little more olive oil to pan and add garlic. Sauté briefly, 30 seconds-1 minute, then add cherry tomatoes.  
  4. When tomatoes begin to soften and release juices, add zucchini back to pan, season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine.  
  5. Add basil, toss again, and serve hot or at room temperature.
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A Little Tense

In August of 2003, Joelle and I purchased our current farm in all its glory. Never mind the buildings (where the original barn was lying flat in a heap of timber), or the funky carport attached to the front of a once beautiful farmhouse, or the machine shop/equipment storage barn that was, well, still “standing” for now! 

We had been shopping for a farm for 5 years. We looked at everything from Montesano, to Goldendale, to Rockport, to Darrington, to Tonasket. The worst part was that we knew we wanted to farm; we just didn’t know what kind of farm we wanted to be. 

When you don’t know what kind of farm you want to be, just about any farm will work. Thankfully for us, we stumbled across this previously described gem and got to work restoring “her” to her former glory. What really sold us on this place was not the house, but the equipment shed and the soil.  

About the time we discovered this farm, we had finally settled on growing veggies, and we were now looking for farms with good soil. If you are going to buy a farm and raise vegetables of commercial significance you will need rich deep alluvial soils. That means you are going to be living, or at least farming, in the flood plains. That is where we ended up. About as close as you can get to the mouth of the Stillaguamish river, and a whopping 14 feet above sea level. And every one of those 14 feet matters down here.  

Allow me to close this loop. In October 2003, this valley got blindsided by a rainstorm that just came sheeting off the hills and flooded everything. We were new and hadn’t really been properly introduced to the Stillaguamish River, but during that flood we knew who the boss was going forward. From 2003 to 2011 we experienced several significant floods, and not much since then. 

I know that one day, and possibly this year, the Stillaguamish will remind us who “owns” the valley bottoms. I am thankful, though, that the Stillaguamish River shares this beautiful soil with us farmers rather freely. 

In 2003, it had also been a few years since there had been a meaningful reminder of flooding in the valley, and that October flood caught many farmers off guard. By the time they knew it was going to flood, it was too late. Millions of dollars of corn and potatoes went unharvested in our valley. Literally, months of planning and hard work was left to rot.  

Which is why, 16 years later when the weather switched in early September to a colder and wetter pattern, every farmer was pushing their equipment and working around the clock to make sure that the Stillaguamish wouldn’t lay claim to any unharvested crops. For the most part the valley is ready in case it floods. Down here it is not if, but when it will flood. At least the crops are out!  

-Tristan