In Season: Hot Fun in the Summer Sun!

It may have been prescience that inspired me to check in with Josh Alsberg of Rubinette Produce to get the skinny on what to expect from local farms and producers in the coming weeks. After all, the wet, cool spring had delayed many of the region's spring crops and even flooded out whole fields of emerging vegetables on some farms, which then made it difficult to get tractors into the fields to replant, being as they got mired up to their axles in the saturated ground. Yikes!

Marionberries have a short but oh-so-sweet season!

According to Alsberg, it's meant the season for many fruits and vegetables is two to four weeks behind what we would consider normal—helloooo climate change. For instance, he pointed out that the three-week season for marionberries and boysenberries would usually peak around July 4th but this year they were hitting their stride on July 25th and will be done around the end of the month.

Stone fruit is experiencing a great summer, with peaches, apricots and nectarines pretty much on time and readily available—he said to expect peaches to be available through September. Alsberg said this year's gigantic blueberry harvest is "off the hook" and the flavor has been stellar, with local bloobs sticking around through the end of August. Despite a major area grower quitting the business, cherries have been relatively abundant, though you'll see them evaporating like a morning mist within a week or so.

Berkeley Tie-Dye tomatoes.

Tomatoes, while also delayed, have been appearing and Alsberg is particularly excited about some new heirloom varieties like Marvel Stripe and Berkeley Tie-Dye (right), along with reliable standbys like Purple Cherokee, German Stripe and Brandywine. Look for sky-high stacks of summer squash—think zucchini, costata romanesco, crookneck and more—on farmers' market tables, along with cukes of all kinds for salads, hot and cold soups, pickles and lots more.

Local corn and peppers are already making an appearance—personally, I'm looking forward to making salsa verde and fermenting my own hot sauce again this year. Lettuces will be struggling in the heat, but brassicas like kales, cauliflower and broccoli are able to withstand a certain level of blistering summer temps. Alsberg said the bean crop, including string, bush, and pole, are looking good, and I'm excited to pick up both meaty romano beans and dragon's tongue shelling beans on my next trip to the market.

Missing my Chester blackberries!

For those mourning the loss of Ayers Creek Farm and its famous Chester blackberries, Alsberg assures us there will be Chesters available from other local sources along with his personal favorite Triple Crown blackberries, so ask at your farmers' market. There are also local growers cultivating descendents of Ayers Creek's Astiana tomatoes—as Anthony and Carol did when they brought the original seeds here from Italy's Piedmont—though the new paste tomatoes may be appearing under a different alias. Again, always ask!

Photo of Berkeley Tie-Dye tomatoes from Fruition Seeds.

Seafood Queen: Cynthia Nims Brings Her New Shellfish Book to PDX

Cynthia Nims is a prolific author. The list of books she's written would take up most of the space in the cupboard I've dedicated to my whole cookbook collection—don't ask where I keep the stacks of other cookbooks that have yet to be shelved. In total, her work is a comprehensive overview of the bounty we Northwesterners enjoy, a celebration of the seasonal riches harvested from our rivers, our forests and our oceans.

There are Nims' recent single-subject seafood books, including Crab, Oysters and her latest, Shellfish. Then there are the Northwest Cookbooks e-book series (Crab, Salmon, Wild Mushrooms, Appetizers, Breakfast, Main Courses, Soups, and Salads & Sandwiches); plus the dear-to-her-heart Salty Snacks and Gourmet Game Night. Personal note: I've been angling to visit Nims in Seattle to get a tour (and maybe a taste) at her period-perfect Lava Lounge where she spins recordings—only vinyl, my dear, please—serves cocktails and runs a board game emporium for friends.

Like many of us in the food writing world, it wasn't her automatic career choice:

"Cooking has been under my skin for as long as I can remember, inspired by the sheer pleasure of cooking with my mom and big sister. I mastered the canned-pear-half-with-cottage-cheese-tail bunny salad, subscribed to Seventeen magazine for the recipes, and had my high school third-year French class over for dinner, which included a soupe à l’oignon that began with beef stock made a couple days prior."

A math degree with an eye toward becoming an engineer was scuttled after Nims attended the stagiaire program at La Varenne, which culminated in receiving the school’s Grand Diplôme d’Etudes Culinaires. She's cooked for Julia Child and the Flying Karamzov Brothers, beginning her immersion in the subject of seafood, appropriately, at Simply Seafood magazine. Nims has taught classes and co-authored, edited and contributed to dozens of publications, including the highly lauded series Modernist Cuisine.

You can meet this culinary wonder woman this weekend at two events in Portland where she's bringing her new book, Shellfish: 50 Seafood Recipes for Shrimp, Crab, Mussels, Clams, Oysters, Scallops, and Lobster, to Flying Fish on Saturday, July 23rd, from 1 to 3 p.m. Nims will be in the Chef Shack alongside Chef Trever Gilbert, who's featuring the book's Harissa Roasted Shrimp, Carrots and Radishes. Then she'll be demo-ing a couple of recipes at Vivienne Kitchen and Pantry—in their Secret Bar, no less—on Sunday, July 24th, from 3 to 5 p.m.

If you want to get a taste of just how fabulous this book is, try her simple (and seriously divine) Grilled Clam Pouches with Bay Leaf and Butter (photo above right). I made them just last night and after his first bite, Dave said, "This is going on the list for camping."

Grilled Clam Pouches with Bay Leaf and Butter

Fresh bay leaves really stand out in the preparation; dried leaves won't offer as much fragrant flavor. A rosemary or thyme sprig in each packet, or a couple of fresh sage leaves, can be used in place of fresh bay. And you can't go wrong with just buttter and clams on the grill, either. I use 12-inch wide aluminum foil; you can use larger and/or heavy duty foil if you like.

The packets make a good serving vessel perched on a plate for casual dining. You can instead transfer the clams and buttery cooking juices to shallow bowls. These lighter portions are ideal as an appetizer, followed perhaps by other items destined for the grill while it's hot.

Makes 4 servings.

2 lbs. small to medium live hard-shell clams, well-rinsed
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
8 fresh bay leaves, divided
Sliced baguette or other bread, for serving

Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high direct heat.

Cut 8 pieces aluminum foil about 12 inches long and arrange them on the counter stacked in pairs for making 4 packets.

Put 1 tablespoon of butter in the center of each foil packet. Fold or tear each bay leaf in half which helps release its aromattic character, and put 2 leaves on or alongside the butter for each packet. Divide the clams evenly among the pouches, mounding them on top of the butter and bay and leaving a few inches of foil all around.

Draw the four corners of the foil up over the clams to meet in the center and crimp together along the edges, where the sides of the foil meet, so the packet is well-sealed. The goal is to create pouches that will hold in the steam for cooking and preserve the flavorful cooking juices that result.

Set the foil packets on the grill, cover, and cook for about 10 to 12 minutes for small clams, 12 to 15 minutes for medium. Partly open a packet to see if all the clams have opened, being careful to avoid the escaping steam; if not, reseal and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Set each pouch on an individual plate and fold down the foil edges, creating a rustic bowl of sorts to hold the flavorful cooking liquids. Or carefully transfer the contents to shallow bowls. Serve right away, with bread alongside, discarding any clams that did not open.

NOTE: This recipe works well in the oven, too. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Use a broad, shallow vessel, such as a large cast-iron skillet or a 12-inch gratin dish or similar baking dish. Add the butter pieces and bay leaves to the dish and put in the oven until the butter has melted. Take the dish from the oven, add the clams in a relatively even layer, and return the dish to the oven. Roast until all, or mostly all, of the clams have opened, 12 to 15 minutes. Spoon the clams into individual shallow bowls, discarding any that did not open, then carefully pour the buttery cooking liquids over the top.

Ode to a Long Marriage: A Tall, Taciturn Guy from Maine

With Dave and my 41st anniversary coming up, I thought I'd post this essay I wrote for my friend George Rede's blog on the eve of our 40th anniversary.

Forty years ago, on August 1, 1981, I married a tall, taciturn guy from Maine. We’d lived together for four years after dating briefly, as was the custom at the time, and he’s credited with getting me kicked out of my parents house when I called them late on a Saturday night to let them know I wouldn’t be coming home so not to worry. Acquaintances would still occasionally ask if he ever talked, so quiet was his demeanor back then (and so chatty was mine that he had a hard time getting a word in edgewise).

That was then…

As a newspaper reporter he was part of the generation that smoked and drank coffee at work, doing interviews over the phone with a cigarette dangling from his lips while banging away on an electric typewriter or scribbling in an unintelligible scrawl in the long, thin, spiral-bound reporter’s notebooks in use at the time. In his first job at the small newspaper in The Dalles he was also the photographer and darkroom guy, with a couple of Nikons to his name that were so heavy legend had it that in an emergency they could serve double duty as hammers.

I was working as an ad production artist at the same paper, a job my father finagled for me when I was living at home (briefly, see above) on a break from college after several months studying abroad in Korea and Japan. The first time he spoke to me was to ask me if I was interested in a kitten, which I declined. The second time he asked me to guess where he was from, and I blithely tossed off “Maine” since he had no trace of an accent that I’d heard—he was quiet, remember—and I answered with the name of the state that was as far as I could imagine from Oregon. (We now call that sort of prognostication a “Kathleen moment” around here.)

Our first date was when he offered to drive me home from work late one evening, and when he pulled up to my parents’ home in his 1963 primer-gray Chevy pickup I said, “Want to get a beer?” We walked to the Sugar Bowl, a divey tavern two blocks away and shared two pitchers of Miller, the beer of choice for rebels who didn’t drink Bud—these were the days before microbrews—over the course of the next two or three hours. Afterward, when he dropped me off at home, I mumbled something to my parents about not being hungry and stumbled upstairs to bed.

…this is now.

That bleary evening over beers he’d discovered that on the trip to Korea I’d been using an old Voigtländer bellows camera of my father’s and had piles of negatives that hadn’t been printed, so we spent many evenings in the paper’s darkroom printing proof sheets and prints, which led to trips to local landmarks on photography expeditions. I learned that, far from being a silent Sam, this guy was smart, talkative and hilariously funny, all qualities—including his love of cats—that made him someone I wanted to spend time with.

My parents eventually came around, though were a bit taken aback when his first Christmas present to me was a rather large ax. (I had a tiny fireplace in my apartment and, being a practical New Englander, he figured I might need to split some wood for the fire.) Over the intervening decades and the cats—too many to count, really—five dogs and a child, he’s become a master baker of sourdough bread and pastries, a dedicated mixologist, and fanatical griller, not to mention the muse and inspiration behind my blog, as well as my biggest supporter.

Whenever I head off on some new venture? He says, “Have fun.” And because of him, I can.

Top photo by Steve Bloch.

Three Totally Chill Summer Soups

Looking at the weather forecast for the next few days, and knowing that the dog days of summer (i.e. August in the Pacific Northwest) are just around the corner, I thought I'd get my proverbial ducks in a row ahead of time.

Gazpacho isn't always red…this is made with yellow tomatoes!

Like most of you, the last thing I want to do when the temperature hits 90 degrees or more is to turn on the stove, so I looked up the plethora of chilled soup recipes collected in the archives here at Good Stuff NW and found a few that are going to come in handy sooner than later.

Luckily for us Northwesterners, the summer harvest is coming on strong after our extraordinarily cold, wet spring—that sound carried on the wind is local farmers heaving a big ol' sigh of relief—so the tomatoes, fennel, fruit, peppers and other cooling things you'll need will be in good supply at our local farmers' markets. 

Cucumber, fennel, avocado…

Gazpacho is what most often comes to mind when chilled soups are mentioned (photo at top and above left). A fresh tomato soup made in a blender with other vegetables and a bit of bread to give it body, you can make it ahead of time or right before serving. It's handy to have a jar on hand in the fridge for a quick lunch, appetizer or light dinner with a hearty green salad.

I'm personally in love with Persian cucumbers, the smaller, less seedy version of their big, waxy cousins that we're used to. Many local farms have started growing them for customers who like their size and that they don't have to be peeled and seeded, yet still retain the cucumber's fresh, crunchy flavor and texture. A common featured ingredient in chilled soups, combining them with other seasonal vegetables is a great way to go.

Don't let the garlic scare you…this is a gently flavorful, cooling soup.

A Spanish chilled garlic soup is cool and light with a requisite zing from the garlic and a soothing sweetness from halved grapes. It's the perfect starter to a summer evening in the back yard. It would also be terrific poured into a lidded pitcher and taken on a picnic (or a concert on the lawn) with a rotisserie chicken from the store along with a fruit salad and a bottle of chilled rosé. 

So when it eventually does start to heat up and you feel that cranky demon lurking right around the corner, take inspiration from these three cool customers. With a minimum of chopping and a quick whir in the blender, they'll turn that sweaty frown upside down.

Tomato Gazpacho

Adapted from Julia Moskin's recipe in the New York Times.

Makes a full blender.

5-6 medium tomatoes
1 small Persian cucumber or a small, peeled and seeded regular cuke
1 poblano or Anaheim pepper
1/2 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. white or red wine vinegar
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

Cut all the vegetables into rough chunks. In the blender, put in the tomatoes first (they'll liquify quickly and pull in the other stuff) then add cucumber, poblano pepper, onion, and garlic. When that has been puréed, add vinegar and blend until very smooth. With the motor is running, add extra virgin olive oil. Taste and add salt if needed. Chill or serve with ice, and add a little water if it's too thick to drink easily.


Chilled Cucumber, Avocado and Fennel Soup

2 medium cucumbers, peeled and seeded, or 3-4 Persian cukes (no peeling or seeding needed.)
1 avocado, peeled and seed removed
1 fennel bulb, quartered and cored
1/4-1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 c. water
1/2 c. sour cream
1, 1" slice day-old artisan bread, crusts removed and cut in 1/2” cubes
Salt to taste

Place half of the cucumbers, avocado, fennel bulb, onion, garlic, lemon, water and sour cream in a blender. Blend until mixture is thoroughly puréed. Add half of bread cubes and continue to blend until it is a smooth mixture. Add salt to taste. Pour into large mixing bowl. (At this point you can taste and adjust amount of onion, etc., for the other half of the soup.) Repeat with second half of ingredients. Stir to combine. Can be refrigerated (or not) before serving.


Sopa de Ajo Blanco

My friend Judy Holloway learned to make this soup when she and her family lived for a time in Spain.

1/2 c. blanched almonds
3-4 slices of large-sized baguette, more if using smaller loaf
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. salt
4 c. water
5 Tbsp. olive oil
3-4 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
16-20 seedless green grapes

Put slices of bread in water to soak. Peel garlic. While bread soaks, put garlic and almonds in processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Squeeze water from bread, tear into pieces and add bread and salt to blender. While blending slowly, add oil, vinegar and finally water to blender. Taste, adjusting salt, vinegar and oil to taste. Chill at least 2-3 hours or overnight. Serve grapes on side, or put several in soup bowl and pour soup over grapes. Serves 4.

Astonished in Astoria

While the big news to come out of our trip to Astoria last week revolved around the collapse of the pier supporting a section of the Buoy Beer building—in which no one was injured, thank heavens—it was also noteworthy because of the stellar weather that afforded virtually unobstructed views of the river traffic on the Columbia from our waterfront room at the ever-delightful Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa.

Endless entertainment on the river.

I was there at the invitation of the hotel to get a preview of their multimillion-dollar renovation scheduled for the end of this year—currently on tap to be completed in 2023—that will not only completely redo the front desk and lobby area, but will also add a craft cocktail bar with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out at the hotel's spectacular view of the river, with a menu of small plates featuring the best of what's in season from local farms and fishers. The spa will also get a makeover, updating services and amenities.

Birria and tacos…be still my heart!

The addition of the bar and kitchen is a smart investment, since the area near the bridge isn't exactly swimming in nearby dining options—though it is fun to schedule a chauffeured ride into town in one of the hotel's fleet of vintage cars. But if you're up for spectacular New Mexican take-out, my friend Jennifer Bright recommends the Taqueria los Compas food truck that's just a few short blocks away. It usually has at least two authentic birria stews along with delicious tacos, burritos, tortas and more. Hint: If a brisk early walk along the waterfront is your jam, then stop in and get the breakfast versions of the above items.

Fresh-caught halibut fish'n'chips!

A ubiquitous stop in Astoria, at least for my beer-loving husband, is at Fort George Brewery and Public House right downtown, with two dining options in the main building—upstairs for pizza and downstairs for pub grub, including spot-on fish and chips. Their charming pocket bar next door, the Lovell Taproom, was closed for a short period but is again open with its own tap list if you're looking for a more intimate experience.

Jennifer also recommends the sustainable seafood at South Bay Wild, a relatively new spot owned by fishing family Rob and Tiffani Seitz, as well as Brut, a wine bar and retail shop recently opened by Lisa Parks. Also mentioned were Naked Lemon bakery, Busu and Sasquatch Sandwich Shop as good bets.

New favorite: Historic Pier 39.

But our favorite by far on Jennifer's list was a bakery and café on the west end of town, Coffee Girl. Excellent coffee and house-made pastries are on the menu, but its location stole our hearts. It's on historic Pier 39 off Hwy 30 and is the city’s oldest and largest waterfront building. It literally sits out in the Columbia River, accessed by a short, planked bridge, and contains shops, a museum and a working cannery. It's magical to sit on the deck out front and watch the river traffic flow by.

The cozy pub at the Shelburne Hotel in Seaview.

We also managed an afternoon adventure across the Astoria-Megler bridge that soars over the Columbia, connecting Oregon's north coast with Washington's  Long Beach Peninsula. Anchored on the south end by the historic and very-much-still-working fishing town of Ilwaco where you can pick up whatever seafood is being pulled out of the area's waters at several dockside markets—Fish People and Tre-Fin Dayboat Seafood are two of many options—we were there to visit Cape Disappointment's Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center where our friends Leslie Kelly and her husband Johnny had signed up to be volunteer guides for the month.

Local oysters, local beer!

Feeling a bit peckish and with some time to kill before meeting our friends, we decided to stop in at the pub at Shelburne Hotel & Pub in nearby Seaview where we'd stayed decades before. Still as warm and inviting as we remembered, especially on a wet, cool spring day, we snacked on crispy-on-the-outside, luscious-in-the-middle cornmeal crusted Hama Hama oysters with fries and a couple of stellar local pints—Leadbetter Red Scottish Ale and Semper Paratus Porter—from just-down-the-block North Jetty Brewing. (Going to be looking for this brewery in the future!)

The historic North Head Lighthouse.

Thus fortified, after a short hike to the stunning North Head Lighthouse, we made our way to the Center and were given a tour of the exhibit tracing the journey of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark's Corps of Discovery from its beginnings as a US Army unit commissioned by President Jefferson tasked with scientific and commercial exploration (for future exploitation) of the recently acquired Louisiana Purchase, ending with the Corps' eventual arrival on the country's western edge.

An all-too-brief sojourn with Leslie and Johnny had us trundling back over the bridge at twilight to our room at the hotel. A quick drive the next morning to the beach at Gearhart so the dogs could get their yayas out on the sand before heading home was the perfect end to our 48-hour trip, one we'll hopefully repeat at greater leisure in the not-too-distant future.

Farm Bulletin: A Farewell

Anthony and Carol Boutard have sold their Ayers Creek Farm and are moving to be near their grandchildren in the Finger Lakes of upstate New York. Here Anthony bids us farewell.

As you may recall, we put our farm on the market in early January. The Huserick family runs the nursery next door and approached us with a solid offer for the farm, neither dithering nor demanding anything in particular. (The oldest brother, Anthony, is known on this side of the property line as “the other Anthony.”) We have known the family professionally as good neighbors, and hard-working, successful farmers, for 24 years. They knew our farm has secure irrigation access by contract with the local irrigation district and excellent soils. Early on, we built quality housing for our farm’s staff, which has proved valuable in a tight labor market. Both nurseries and market farms need reliable water, soils and staff.

We had hoped to have one more open day before the sale, but the task of moving proved formidable. Carol managed the move to Penn Yan in early April and I have been buttoning things up here. The paperwork is all in order and I will handle the signing this week. I have had people ask what will happen to the farm. In the course of 45 years together, we have bought and sold three properties and were tenants in another five. We know, once our shadow leaves this place, it will belong to the Huserick family. We had 24 years to work land, and we are content with our efforts. In Penn Yan, we can still step out on a cold winter’s night and imagine the Crab Nebula floating above us, or catch a shooting star.  

One of the buttoning up tasks has been making sure our inventory of grain, beans and preserves will find its way into commerce. They are now in the good care of Wellspent Market and Providore Fine Foods. We included our smaller 8-inch Meadows Mill as part of the deal [iwth Wellspent Market]. It is compact, easily moved upon a Crab Nebula dolly (top photo), and runs off of household current. Manufactured in North Carolina, if a spare part is needed, it will show up a couple days later. 

Dressing the Mill


"I say, beware of enterprises that require new clothes. "
- Henry David Thoreau, "Walden Pond, Or a Life in the Woods"


If farmers can’t scrape out an occasion to quote of Thoreau, they are a pretty ratty specimen of that rusticated class. Grist mills need dressing, even if not in the raiment contemplated by old Henry David. 

The Millwright’s mise en place.

Both of our grist mills have pink granite stones that are quarried in the Appalachians. The stone is very hard but over the course of 18 years and tons of grains, the mill needed attention. I had to replace the augur spring that had broken, embarrassingly as I was providing Noah Cable of Wellspent a tutorial. While the mill was taken apart, dressing the stones made sense. My tool box is 2,772 miles away, so I went to Ace Hardware and picked up some ground chalk, a prick punch and a cold chisel—the needle, thread and scissors of the millwright—along with a puller to remove the drive wheel. 

The landscape of the millstone is composed of “lands” or flat areas that taper down to “furrows." There are two stones. The bed stone is fixed to the housing; the traveller rotates. These small grist mills have a simple dress defined by an unbranched furrow. Larger stones have a more complex system of lands and furrows. The chalk is dusted on the traveller and it is turned against the bed to true the stone. The goal is to identify any problematic high areas. The high areas are chipped away using the prick punch. The furrows are cleaned out using the cold chisel. As the millwright hammers on the steel tools, sparks fly from the stone.

In the foreground, a high spot is highlighted by the chalk dust. It was leveled
with the chisel and punch.

Before reassembling the mill and its drive, I restored the paint. I chose colors reflecting the palette of the muralist and painter, Thomas Hart Benton. One of his students was Jackson Pollock, which freed me up stylistically. The mill housing follows the colors of the corn kernels, while the belt housing is meant to evoke the corn plants in the field with their yellow tassels.

The mill at its new home with the Wellspent proprietors: Noah Cable, Jim and Joe Dixon.

With the grain, beans and mustard safely ensconced at Wellspent and the preserves at Providore, the van and I are ready to make trek up to the Badlands and across to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, then rambling eastward to Rochester, then Penn Yan. I have the same map of the U.S. that I marked up during our trip to Oregon in 1989. I also have my old Fuji 6x7 camera, a new light meter and 50 rolls of 120 Tri-X film, old school all the way. 

Once in Penn Yan, I will continue my plant breeding work. There are several projects I will be working on, including a lovely blackberry variety derived from a chance seedling I found on the farm. I believe it is a natural hybrid between a Chester and a Logan; the flavor is outstanding. I will also be refining our favas, and finishing up the chicory breeding work. Carol will be penning her yen for verse. If you all are passing through the village, be sure to stop by and say hey.

Top photo: The Crab Nebula as Imagined by a Farmer on a Cold Winter’s Night. An original gristmill dolly.

All photos by Anthony Boutard.

Planting an Herb Garden: Expand Your Repertoire with Chives and Thai Basil

I'm still a little teary at the loss over the winter of the "tarragon hedge" in my raised bed dedicated to herbs, so a trip to get new starts was in order. After picking up replacement tarragon, I also got some chervil, Italian parsley and garlic chives—and came home to find that the Beaverton Farmers Market newsletter had some helpful hints about herbs used in Thai recipes, including those garlic chives I'd just bought!


“A little sprinkle of fresh herbs on a meal can mean the difference between flavors that are just nice, and flavors that are spectacular. And when you have fresh herbs growing in your own backyard, porch planters, or window box, this makes it even easier to boost the flavor of your homemade meals." - Gardener's Path


Beaverton Market Master Ginger Rapport agrees with this advice. Fresh herbs are always an important part of her garden plan. In fact, Ginger grows her herbs in large pots on the patio right outside her kitchen where they are readily accessible. They are both useful and beautiful. Important to note here that growing herbs in pots is also a defense against Ginger’s male grand-dog Jax, who loves to lift his leg on her garden plants. Fortunately, he is a small terrier, but if you have male dogs in the yard you will want to consider this when you plan your herb garden.

Garlic chives have solid leaves and a mildly garlic flavor.

Since Ginger does a lot of Thai cooking, there are two herbs, in particular, she raises in abundance—garlic chives and Thai basil.

Thai Basil and Italian Basil: Thai basil (top photo) is different from Italian basil, which she also grows, in that it has a more anise-like fragrance and smell with a slightly more spicy taste. The leaves are sturdier than Italian basil leaves and can withstand some cooking. Thai basil is an essential ingredient in pho, a Vietnamese soup, but it is used liberally in salads, curries, noodle dishes and stir-fries.

The two herbs, while related, are distinctive enough in flavor that using them interchangeably in a recipe shortchanges the dish you are preparing.  They each have their own distinct flavor notes so it is worth growing both varieties.

Thai basil and Italian basil are tender in our hardiness zone and are treated as annuals in the garden. Chives, on the other hand, come back year after year. In fact, they easily re-sow themselves in other areas of your garden so keep that in mind when planting them.

Regular chives have hollow leaves.

Garlic Chives vs. Regular Chives: The leaves and flowers of both chives and garlic chives are edible. However, regular chives grow tubular hollow leaves that smell and taste mildly oniony, whereas garlic chives grow wide flat leaves that taste mildly garlicky. Most of us are familiar with regular chives which are a common garnish for dishes that need a beautiful green touch and a gentle onion-flavored finish.

While garlic chives can be chopped to use as a garnish, keep in mind that they will have a tougher texture than regular chives. Because they are sturdier they can be treated more like a vegetable and are common ingredients in Asian cuisines including stir-fries, soups, salad, and marinades.


Get recipes for chive blossom vinegar and chive oil, as well as Ginger's favorite recipe for Pad Thai that usesarlic chives.

Photos from Gardener's Path.

Book Report: The Man Who Ate Too Much

“The fresh butter has another taste,” James would tell Jane Nickerson about trying to approximate Parisian ingredients in New York [for his book Paris Cuisine, published in 1952]. “Vegetables and fruits, because they are grown in different soil and travel shorter distances, may be fuller flavored. The small, small peas the French so like are not offered in our markets.” He knew these dishes at the source. The transformation that happened to them on another continent—the degree to which even nominally identical ingredients, carrots or salt or wheat flour, changed because of where and how they grew or formed—was a revelation to James. It was the beginning of the winemaker’s notion of terroir extending to more than wines—indeed, to all the things the land produces in a defined region.
- John Birdsall, "The Man Who Ate Too Much: The Life of James Beard"

James Beard is, without a doubt, one of the most well-known Oregonians our state has ever produced. His nearly century-long life—from his birth in 1903 to his death in 1985—evangelizing the pleasures of eating and cooking with the freshest of what is grown and produced wherever he found himself is without precedent. Yet his chameleon-like ability to both stand for the enjoyment of flavorful food as well as surf the onslaught of the 20th Century's industrial, mass-produced trends like frozen food and canned goods, while still cranking out massive numbers of books, columns, and live appearances in order to earn a living, is truly astonishing.

This while keeping his queer life completely shrouded from the view of all but the closest of his intimates.

In "The Man Who Ate Too Much: The Life of James Beard," Birdsall has written a sprawling biography of Beard's life from his birth to Elizabeth and John Beard in Portland that details his parents' unambiguously antagonistic relationship—his mother, an independent businesswoman before her marriage, had at least one longterm affair with a prominent actress while relegating her husband to his own room in the back of their house. For his part, John kept a mistress with whom he had at least one child. James grew up in the lonely netherworld between them, cared for in his early life by their Chinese cook, Jue Let.

This readable, intensively researched book—Birdsall's research notes and sources run 60 pages—initially covers much the same territory as Robert Clark's biography of Beard from 1993, but includes voluminous detail about his private life as an internationally famous, but closeted, queer man (as Birdsall terms it). Equally fascinating is the story of how queerness, and the (mostly) male culinary stars of the mid-to-late 20th Century came to define, as epitomized by Beard himself, the food and cooking most of us call American cuisine.

(This is not surprising, since Birdsall was the author of an article on that topic for the now-shuttered Lucky Peach magazine, titled "America, Your Food Is So Gay," which won him a James Beard Foundation Award in 2014.)

Birdsall doesn't shy away from Beard's foibles and failings in this book, including his tendency to take credit for recipes developed by others, plagiarize his own recipes published elsewhere, as well as take advantage of the people who shaped his books and columns—including uncredited editorial help from Isabel Callvert, Helen and Philip Brown, and many others.

It is truly a fascinating read, one that I'd recommend to those interested not just in Beard and the food history of the 20th Century, but also to anyone who wants to learn more about queer culture and how it survived in the pockets and shadows of that period.

Birdsall writes about the gala tribute, headlined by 14 of the country's best-known chefs, held in New York City after Beard’s death in 1985 at the age of 82:

“James—the Dean of American Gastronomy (an upgrade from  “Cookery,” his epithet of thirty years)—was part of the previous generation of American food masters. Along with Julia Child and Craig Claiborne—both still very much alive—James was the ultimate amateur cook, dedicated to home cooking. The new generation of American culinary authorities were chefs, each exciting and glamorous in ways James, Julia, and Claiborne never were.”


Get the recipe for my version of James Beards' classic macaroni and cheese casserole adapted from his Beard on Pasta book.

Top photo of James Beard (and his famous pineapple wallpaper) from the book.

Guest Essay: Where is GTF?

This essay by Patrick Merscher, Assistant Manager at the Hillsdale Farmers'‚Äč Market in Portland, was published in the market's newsletter when Gathering Together Farm was not able to attend the market due to flooding from a January storm. The farm, located on the banks of the Marys River in Philomath, and its neighbors are still feeling the effects of that storm, and April’s heavy dose of rain, hail and snow hasn’t helped. Merscher's essay explains what such heavy flooding means for farmers and crops.

Around the New Year, you may remember the Pacific Northwest receiving a heavy amount of precipitation in a relatively short amount of time, which is not unusual for the area, although these events are increasing in frequency and intensity. You may also recall the news stories about flooding all around the region, especially in low-lying areas like the Willamette Valley, and about the effects it had on the many farmers that call these places home.

One of the market’s largest vendors, Gathering Together Farm (GTF), was heavily impacted by the floods, and they spent months away from the market. Every week shoppers would ask, “Where is Gathering Together? The flood was weeks ago—why aren’t they back?” These are brilliant questions, and one of our roles at the market is to act as a conduit between our local community and local farmers. So, here are some insights on what happens when a farm floods, and why it takes so long for them to return— and no, it’s not just because absence makes the heart grow fonder, although we certainly missed them.

Slow Winter Growth: The fresh winter vegetables you find at market (think radicchio, cauliflower, leeks, etc.) are actually started in late summer and early fall. Before winter starts, plants need to be about three-quarters mature in order to survive the cold temperatures. Growth during the wintertime is exceptionally slow here in the Northwest because of cold weather, short days and low-intensity sunlight. Plants are more holding in the field than they are growing. When a flood damages these winter crops, they actually have a lot of growth to catch up on and less-than-ideal conditions to do it in.

Oxygen Depletion: Plants respire just like humans. Standing water smothers the plant’s breathing pores (called stomates) essentially suffocating the plant. The extent of damage done by oxygen depletion is made worse by warmer waters (a symptom of climate change), stagnant water, younger plants, and the amount of time plants stay submerged.

Nitrogen Loss: Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for healthy plant growth and the health of the plant’s immune system. Forms of nitrogen that can be taken up by plants are also very water soluble, so much of the nitrogen can run off the field as flood waters recede. Anaerobic conditions (i.e. a lack of oxygen) also promote certain microbes that consume the nitrogen for their growth. Lack of nitrogen further slows plant recovery, reduces yields, and increases plant disease. Nitrogen can be replaced, but options are limited on certified organic farms like GTF. Often these organic sources of nitrogen require a mineralization process done in the soil to become available for plants, so it’s not a quick fix. Winter conditions also slow the mineralization process. The farm is also concerned about costs of production like fertilizer and labor, both on the farm and to work the market.

Erosion: Flooding not only removes soil nutrients, but it can physically remove organic matter or even the soil itself. The organic matter is responsible for holding onto nutrients and serving as a substrate that plants can root into. Sand, gravel and rocks can also be moved during flooding, physically damaging the plants. Healthy soil is the foundation of organic farms and farmers spend years developing it. This cannot be easily replaced.

Weed and Disease Growth: Floodwaters bring in weed seeds and plant pathogens. Since crops are damaged, weeds have an easier time growing and competing for sunlight and soil nutrients. Damaged crop plants are virtually sitting ducks for plant pathogens like fungi that love damp, cool conditions and can outgrow the plants easily. Of course, manual or mechanical weed control is the first line of defense on organic farms like GTF, but digging, tilling or otherwise working waterlogged soil, even just walking on it, destroys the structure of the soil and can cause compaction. This will have longterm effects that could be seen for years to come because, again, soil health is something farmers spend years building, but nature can take it away in an instant.

While none of this is pleasant to talk or think about, hopefully you have a better understanding of the plight our local farmers are facing. When one of them experiences a catastrophe like this, please be patient as the farm and the workers recover. They may not be able to come to the market for a few weeks, but your patience is one way you can support them and the market.

Read a profile of founder John Eveland of Gathering Together Farm. Top photo of January's flooding at GTF from their Instagram account.

A Taste Memory Resurrected by a Grandmother's Kimchi Recipe

My first taste of kimchi was a revelation…salty, acidic, crunchy, and searingly spicy with the heat from Korean red chiles. I still salivate at the memory of it.

The fermentation pots, or onggi, on the roof of my host family's home.

It was made by the mother of my host family in Daejon, South Korea, having fermented in loosely covered clay pots, called onggi, on the flat, exposed roof of their home alongside other mysterious concoctions that drew my curiosity with their richly funky, exotic smells, aromas that were as foreign to my middle-class American palate as tuna noodle casserole and Swiss steak would be to my host family.

I seem to recall the family eyeing me suspiciously as I lifted the chopsticks containing that first bite to my lips, not sure how the big American girl they'd taken into their home might respond. Would she scream? Gag? Run out of the room?

They were probably relieved, if maybe a bit disappointed, that none of those happened, though I remember my lips burning by the end of the meal of fish, wok-seared greens and kimchi. It helped that there was plenty of rice and traditional scorched-rice tea (sungnyung) to help mitigate the fire of the chiles, but I was intrigued.

Gochugaru, coarse ground red pepper, is a critical ingredient.

Since that college trip I've been wanting to recreate the taste that was almost literally seared into my memory 40 years ago, and my experiences with fermentation made me pretty confident I could do it without killing or sickening my friends or family.

So when I found out that my friend Denise was willing to help me make it from the recipe her sister had transcribed from her mother Betty Ann's recipe—one that Betty Ann had learned from her mother, Annie—I was all in. (Read the story of Annie Mah's odyssey and get her recipe for gochujang.)

It began with Denise and I making a trip to one of the city's many large Asian supermarkets to get the coursely ground Korean red peppers, or gochugaru, that is the critical ingredient in kimchi, one that cannot be substituted if your goal is to make the real deal. I'd already picked up the Napa cabbage, daikon and carrots, my preferred mix of vegetables—though the recipe just calls for five pounds of whatever suits your tastes.

Remarkably simple, Denise's family recipe is fairly mild as kimchi goes, confirmed when her relatives sampled my second attempt in which I'd upped the cayenne quotient, making it more like the version I'd had in Korea. Mind you, they liked it, but as her Aunt Else said afterwards, clapping me on the shoulder, "You make it like a Korean would!"

High praise, indeed!

Kimchi (Kim Chee)

Adapted from Betty Ann della Santina's recipe by her daughter, Cynthia Forsberg.

For the brined vegetables, any of the following, about five pounds total:
Daikon, shredded or chunked
Napa or green cabbage, chunked

After brining the vegetables above overnight, add as many of these as you want:
Green onions, sliced in half or quarters lengthwise, cut crosswise in 2 to 3-inch lengths
Yellow onions, chunked
Carrots, shredded

For the paste:
1/2 c. fine to medium crushed Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru)
3-inch piece ginger peeled and grated (with juice)
5-7 large juicy garlic cloves, crushed
2-3 Tbsp. shrimp powder, shrimp paste, or fish sauce, or a combination
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 c. water (only enough to make into paste)

Soak cabbage and daikon in brine of 1 c. salt mixed in one gallon water for 14-24 hours. The next day, rinse thoroughly in cold water. Drain vegetables and press out most of the remaining water.

Red pepper paste.

Mix together red pepper (gochugaru), grated ginger, crushed garlic, shrimp powder (or fish sauce), sugar in a large bowl with just enough water to make a thick paste. 

Add brined and cut vegetables to the paste and mix thoroughly. Press into clean wide-mouth quart (or pint) jars. Press down firmly, allowing 1" space at top, and close the lid tightly, allow to ferment at least 24 to 36 hours on the counter.

[Fermentation time can vary depending on temperature and other factors. I allowed mine to sit in the basement for 5 to 7 days, and started to taste it after the third day until it had developed the "funky" taste I wanted. - KB]

Store in refrigerator.