Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Recipe 6: salad as a meal challenge

And the Salad as a Meal challenge continues... 
As a reminder, the challenge is: make 3 new recipes each week from Patricia Wells' new book, Salad as a Meal, for 4 weeks, and blog about it. That's 12 new recipes total. Not a big challenge, but a challenge none-the-less.
We are now deep into week two of the challenge, I am enjoying it more than ever. A couple days ago I tried the fish recipe pictured below. I must say, I chose to make the recipe because the ingredient list sounded so foreign to me, I could not imagine what the flavors would taste like cooked together. 

Halibut, Herb, and Potato Salad

This recipe is essentially fish and potatoes cooked in milk, and then tossed with capers, cornichon pickles, parsley, and chives. Milk, pickles, and fish??? Sounds odd to me, but my goodness it is good. Subtle, but not boring. Rather delicious in fact. I will definitely make this again. This is especially true since Halibut is in season, and I still have loads of potatoes left over from last summer's garden.
Jacob and I enjoyed this lovely dish along with a green salad tossed with home cooked garbanzo beans and creamy lemon-chive dressing, buttered toast, and a glass of wine. It was a delightful way to start the week. Thanks for the inspiration and instruction Patricia Wells!

Danny Woo Children's Garden Fundraiser

What are you doing tonight at 6:30? If you don't have plans, and you care about local, sustainable, healthy food, I'd love it if you joined me and others at the Danny Woo Children's Garden fundraiser. The event will be a movie screening of the documentary FRESH, followed by a panel discussion among local urban agriculture activists. For those who are unfamiliar with the Danny Woo Children's Garden project, it is a garden in Seattle's International District, specifically for children. Last summer there were all sorts of cool, and free, garden programs for kids. They also have lots laying hens, which I find especially charming. Who doesn't love chickens?

Where: Grand Illusion Cinema (in Seattle's U-District) 1403 NE 50th St.
When: March 30th, 6:30pm to 9:00pm. Movie screening begins at 7pm
Price: $15

Discussion panelists:

  • Nate Moxley, Seattle P-Patch Garden Coordinator
  • Michelle Bates-Benetua, Lettuce Link Program Manager
  • Eddie Hill, Farms Program Manager at Seattle Tilth
  • Kate Kurtz (me), Alleycat Acres Program Manager

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Biosolids on the radio

Those who know a little bit about my professional work will call me a soil scientist. Those that know me well, however, know that organic residual management is my jam. What is 'organic residual management' you ask? I suppose this means that if something was once alive, or a live animal defecated it, and then it became garbage... well that's where I see a resource. That's where I see the possibility for excellent, natural, nutrient-rich soil amendments. Generally this means that I work in the world of manures, biosolids, and yard and food waste. Yep, stinky garbage is what I'm all about. This is really cool work because it connects sustainable waste management with sustainable soil management. Does it get any better???

Me being a soil scientist. Standing in front of compost treatment #5 at a soil restoration project on Vashon Island, WA. Feel free to make fun of the orange overalls. They keep me dry, so I love them despite what anyone has to say about their aesthetic appeal, or lack there of.

That's my friend Bryan fully enjoying this load of GroCo, a biosolids-based compost.
I feel ya Bryan. GroCo has a similar affect on me.

Last week my former boss and graduate committee chair, Sally Brown, visited Kansas State University to give a guest lecture. As part of her visiting guest lecturer duties, she sat for an interview at the local radio station, for a program called "Agriculture Today" (pretty slick). There, she talked about the joys and benefits of biosolids. Biosolids are an especially cool topic because they are the waste product that every single one of us city dwellers helps to create, yet so many of us have never even heard of them. To hear Sally's 10 minute take on why she loves biosolids watch below. I thought it was an excellent interview...

Recipe 5: salad as a meal challenge

This sounds crazy but it is true. At my heart, I am a bean eater. 
Perhaps this affection for beans is a result of spending my years from age 8 to 22 as a vegetarian, but I am comforted by no food group as much as I am by beans. Most of my teenage years, growing up in Los Angeles, I rarely craved anything other than refried pinto beans and cheese. I realize that there are healthier food choices out there, but one can easily imagine a night as an 18-year-old, spent up to no good, and then coming home starved half to death, and wanting warm, cheesy refried beans. My mother always made sure that there was a tupperware of refried beans in the fridge for me to gorge myself on any time of day or night.

Dried garbanzo beans before cooking

While they don't pull the same emotional heart strings as the pinto, garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas), make it to my top 5 bean list. I usually eat garbanzos at least once a week, either tossed whole in a green salad, or whipped up into hummus. I always buy them pre-cooked in a can. Canned beans are great, because they are so damn quick, and don't taste half bad. Patricia Wells, however, made a compelling case for cooking ones garbanzo beans at home. Being the bean lover I am, it didn't take much to convince me to try this.

From left to right: Parsley, thyme, rosemary, and bay. All from the garden.

Wells recommends that one cook garbanzo beans in chicken or vegetable stock along with loads of onions, garlic and a bouquet garni of parsley and bay. I added rosemary and thyme because I have them in the garden, and they sounded good. The end result truly was far superior to the canned version. Wells says that you can freeze the beans, in their cooking liquid, for several months. This might be a good solution to keeping garbanzos on hand, ready to use, when I want them.
I did not soak the beans over night as instructed, although I gave them a good rinse. It took about 2 hours of simmering in the broth for the beans to reach a soft perfection.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Recipe 4: salad as a meal challenge

At this point, my copy of Patricia Wells' new book, Salad As A Meal is all marked up with ripped bits of post-it notes. This is my relatively unorganized way of letting my future self know to "look here for an interesting sounding recipe". The exercise is kinda fun, and kinda dizzying. The orange post-its certainly make the book look like part of a "challenge", as opposed to something I have laying on the kitchen counter for the pretty pictures. Today marks week two of this four week challenge.

For a weekend lunch I tried the Penne Salad with Tuna and Spicy Mustard recipe. I gotta say, it was just okay. Jacob said, "Wow, this is like tuna noodle casserole", and so that's what we called it... all weekend long. I don't really know what tuna noodle casserole tastes like though. I'm pretty sure I ate that dish once. I believe I was at camp Whittle, a YMCA camp in the San Bernadino Mountains in Southern California. If I recall, I liked tuna noodle casserole, but alas, that was long ago, and the memory is not strong. Either way, I like the way the words "Tuna Noodle Casserole" sound, so I ended up saying that a lot over the weekend.
Wells' recipe was quick and simple, incorporating no additional ingredients than those listed in the title. Perhaps with higher quality ingredients this would have been spectacular, but I was pulling from my pantry, and it was something I'll most likely only make once. Having said that, Jacob and I finished the whole thing.

Penne Salad with Tuna and Spicy Mustard

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Recipe 3: salad as a meal challenge

I am wrapping up week one of the salad challenge, and I have to say that I am really enjoying it. It has been a while since I have delved into trying so many new recipes, all at once. There I said it. For the last few years I've been in a recipe rut. Maybe it was the distraction of graduate school, or a simple drift in focus away from cooking, but I have honestly been making variations of the same recipes for quite some time now. I have been finding it fun to be making new dishes this week, adding new life to my tired repertoire.

On Friday night I tried this grain-based dish: Quinoa Salad with Spinach, Parsley, and Spring Onions. Ms. Wells asks that you first toast the quinoa in a dry skillet, then rinse it to remove any bitterness, and then cook it in liquid (stock or water). Perhaps this the way to cook quinoa, but in the past I have always gone straight to adding it to boiling liquid. The result of these extra steps really did make it less bitter, and relatively unsticky (is unsticky a word?).

The salad was essentially cooked quinoa, mixed with chopped parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, and spring onions. Add the quinoa to a chiffonade of spinach dressed with a creamy lemon-chive dressing, and there is your dish. It tastes about as it sounds: fresh, yet hearty from the quinoa. I know quinoa is a protein-rich grain, but I was eating this after a long run, and wanted some 'real' protein with my dinner. I had two hard cooked eggs along with it, and it was a perfect, light supper.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Recipe 2: salad as a meal challenge

Does anything scream spring louder than poached eggs and asparagus? I don't know, but it sure felt springy this evening.

Asparagus, ham, and poached egg salad

Add a baby spinach salad with lemon and olive oil dressing, a bit of prosciutto, and some fresh chives from the garden, and you have dinner.
The best part: it took 15 minutes to make. Thanks Ms. Wells for the great recipe!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Salad Challenge

Now that spring is officially here, we are quickly aproaching what my husband affectionately refers to as 'salad season'. Okay so I made up the affectionate part, but he really does call it salad season.
In just a few weeks I will have garden beds full of tender greens like mesclun, arugula, bok choy, spinach, and pea shoots. Long will be the days of roasted root vegetables and braised kale. I have had a winter full of those vegetables, and now I'm ready to move on. That's right, I'm poo poo-ing on the season called winter.
Part of the reason for this so called salad season is because each year I am over-the-moon excited about the new, fresh flavors of spring. Another, possibly more practical, reason is that I am trying to stay on top of what the garden produces. Lettuce grows fabulously in spring weather, and Seattle has a notoriously long spring. Hot, lettuce-wilting summer days likely won't arrive to Seattle until mid-July.

A couple weeks back, on a day when I had really had it with potatoes and turnips, I started dreaming of fresh leafy greens. Mid-way through my dream, I noticed Patricia Wells posted something about her new book, Salad as a Meal. She and her publishers challenged fellow food bloggers to make 3 recipes from her new book each week, for four weeks. I thought to myself, this is just what I need to get spring rolling. This marks week one, of the four week Salad as a Meal challenge.

Not surprisingly, Patricia's book takes "salad" way beyond leafy greens.

Despite the fact that I think of Patricia Wells as being a french-styled cook, the first recipe I tried from her new book was asian inspired. Last night I was in the mood for something comforting, and soba noodles sounded divine.

The first salad: Chicken and Soba Noodles with Ginger-Peanut Sauce.
The recipe title really says it all...


I was expecting the heartiness from the soba, but the recipe tasted much fresher than I imagined. Perhaps it was all the fresh herbs or the considerable amount of rice vinegar counterbalancing the peanut butter and soy sauce in the dressing. It doesn't matter. This recipe was the perfect of juxtaposition of rich and acidic, heavy and light. This challenge is off to a good start... 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Happy spring

March 20th marked the first day of spring this year.

I spent the weekend starting seeds, prepping beds, and generally waking things up from a long, cold winter. Saturday I enjoyed a solitary and meditative day of garden work at home. On Sunday I joined the community and worked at the Alleycat Acres Central District site.

Never mind the calendar though, below are two concrete signs of spring: chives and dirty hands...

 The chives came back and are even more delicious than I remember from years past. I can't wait for them to flower.

Dirty hands. I'll have dirt under my fingernails and dry cuticles until next winter, and that's okay.

Did you do anything to celebrate the transition into this new season?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Is winter over yet?

It's been months since Seattle gardens looked anything like this, but I have a hunch we will be harvesting spring crops in the blink of an eye.
This Saturday we will be waking up the garden by turning compost, adding compost, weeding, and possibly sowing seeds at the Alleycat Acres Beacon Hill location (3656 24th Ave. S, Seattle, WA).
If you live in Seattle, now is a good time to sow peas, arugula, spinach, garlic, onions, and fava beans.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday morning

Jacob and I enjoyed a hearty meal this morning, and we deserved it. Waffles, chicken-apple sausage, and scrambled eggs were good and satisfying nourishment, helping us recover from yesterday's bike ride.

To help raise money for Alleycat Acres: urban farming collective, we bicycled 60 miles around Lake Washington yesterday. I was super nervous about the ride. Frankly, I was scared that I would be too weak to finish. At one point I suggested that we get a lift over the 8 mile steady hill climb section. My friend Amber, a fellow co-founder of alleycats, nixed the idea. She told me that we had to at least try. Jacob and our new friend, Brock, told me that I could easily do it.
The elation I felt at the top of the hill was the most incredible feeling. It was a feeling of empowerment, competence, and excitement. These are feelings that make life truly wonderful. Thanks for pushing me beyond my comfort zone guys!!

Here's a pic of Amber and me getting ready with the other riders, early Saturday morning. Doing the ride with Amber was especially cool, because as teenagers, we used to ride in an annual bike-a-thon with our high school, Windward. All day we kept encouraging each other by shouting "Bike-a-thon 2011!!" The last time we did anything like this was in 1995, so the notion was pretty hilarious to us.

  Bikes gathered before the start.

Fist pumps were in order upon finishing the ride.

Tired cyclists enjoying some warm food and beverages after the ride.
Amber, Jacob, and Brock: thanks for being part of bike-a-thon 2011! (AKA alleycat acre's Ride Hard Grow Forth, spring fundraiser).