Underappreciated Allium: The Shallot

It's allium season in the Pacific Northwest, with wild varieties of onions and garlic appearing in spring meadows and their domestic cousins like leeks, spring onions, scallions, Spanish calçots, garlic and shallots cascading in from local farms. (By the way, if you see ramps? They don't grow here and are imported from other areas of the country.) Ginger Rapport, Market Master of the Beaverton Farmers Market, shares her love of these ubiquitous bulbs.

Shallots are an underappreciated member of the allium or onion family. While they are an essential ingredient in many cuisines like those of Southeast Asia and Vietnam, most Americans fail to appreciate all they have to offer. 

Shallots have a delicate, sweet flavor without the intense heat of an onion. They are preferable over onions in raw applications such as salad dressings and vinaigrettes. Finely diced, they provide a subtle bite to pan sauces and are delicious roasted whole, or pickled as a garnish. Shallots are ubiquitous in Vietnamese cooking, especially pho, where they are combined with ginger to give pho its unique taste and fragrance. 

In the past shallots were mainly imported from Europe which made them somewhat expensive when compared to onions. This is probably one reason why they are not as widely used here in the States as they should be. Domestically grown shallots are becoming more common, which is also making them more affordable. Fortunately for us here at the Beaverton Farmers Market, Farmer Yo Tee Telio grows huge, gorgeous shallots and you can find them in his Salmon Creek Farm booth at the market.

Fried Shallots

Frying shallots turns them into crispy, flavor-packed clusters that are good on almost anything. (This is not an exaggeration.) Beaverton Farmers Market Master Ginger Rapport keeps a container of them in her refrigerator at all times. Their caramelized flavor and crunchy texture adds sparkle to salads, potatoes, roasted or steamed vegetables, grain bowls, omelets, steaks, deviled eggs and avocado toast. Chopped, they can be added to dips or combined with mayonnaise as a sandwich spread. Bring cottage cheese to life with a sprinkling of fried shallots on top. They are also delicious eaten by the handful, and making them is super easy. 

When we said that they are good on everything? We meant it. 

8 small shallots
1 c. peanut oil (or vegetable oil like canola)
Salt

Peel shallots of their papery coverings, slicing off the root and papery tip. Slice shallots crosswise into very thin (1/16" or so) rings.

Heat oil in a frying pan until it shimmers. Check the temperature by taking one of the rings and tossing it into the pan. If it sizzles, the oil is ready. Put sliced shallots into the pan and move them around with a spatula to keep them from sticking. Moderate heat to keep them sizzling but not burning. When they are golden brown remove them to racks set over paper towels to cool and crisp up.

Use immediately or store in refrigerator in an airtight container for up to two months.

Easterday Guilty Plea & Legal Concerns Put Mega-Dairy Permit on Hold Indefinitely

Big news broke yesterday about the Easterday Dairy application to restart a 30,000-cow operation on the site of the catastrophic Lost Valley Farm mega-dairy in Boardman, Oregon.

According to a press release from Stand Up to Factory Farms, a coalition of consumer and environmental public interest groups, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced that the agencies had temporarily suspended work on the pending Easterday Dairy permit because of legal concerns.

Two of Easterday largest businesses declared bankruptcy in February.

The "pause" of the permit was announced by the ODA's CAFO program manager, Wym Matthews, at a meeting of the state CAFO Advisory Committee, which provides feedback to the department about its Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) Program.

Cody Easterday, whose name and signature appear on the ODA permit application, pleaded guilty on March 31st in federal district court to defrauding Tyson Foods, Inc., and another company out of more than $244 million over a period of six years by charging them for the purchase and feeding of more than 200,000 cattle that existed only on paper.

Cody Easterday's year-over-year losses in the futures market.

In a scheme that has been dubbed "Cattlegate," Easterday pleaded guilty to wire fraud—making use of electronic media including telephone or fax machine, email or social media, or SMS and text messaging—which he allegedly committed in order to cover up his massive losses on the futures market. His trading activities are the basis for another pending federal matter against Easterday that is being brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Easterday family, which Cody has headed since the death last fall of his father, Gale, has extensive holdings in Washington and Idaho. Two of the family's largest companies, Easterday Farms and Easterday Ranches, have declared bankruptcy in the wake of the scandal.

Cody Easterday's signature on ODA permit application.

In the advisory committee hearing, Matthews said that the bankruptcies of these two major parts of the family's businesses appear to touch on parts of the proposed Oregon facility and are a major reason for pausing the permit process. "The Oregon property is in question at this time," he said. "The applicant status and ownership status [of the dairy] is potentially in question, which would cause us to pause."

In an e-mail response to my questions, ODA communications director Andrea Cantu-Schomus said that while the permit application itself is still active and pending, the Oregon Department of Justice continues to gather information about this rapidly evolving situation.

“It’s a relief to hear that ODA and DEQ have stopped work on the permitting process for Easterday Dairy,” according Stand Up to Factory Farms coalition organizer Emma Newton. “Easterday’s failure to disclose fraud and major financial difficulties during the application process gives ODA and DEQ ample grounds for the permit’s denial." Calling the pause on the permit a first step, Newton calls on the agencies to "deny the Easterday Dairy permit once and for all.”


Read more about the Easterday scandal and the subsequent bankruptcies of Easterday Ranches and Easterday Farms. Get more information on the Lost Valley Farm debacle and the dangers that mega-dairies present to Oregon's rural communities, the health of its citizens, and the state's climate, environment, air and water.

Just In Time for Easter: Easy-to-Peel Farm Fresh Eggs!

Recently I was shocked to read that a well-known columnist and chef had published an article about deviled eggs with the dictum "never use super-fresh eggs, because they will not peel."

I beg to differ.

One of the joys of using fresh eggs from pasture-raised hens is their flavor, that indescribably eggy brightness that comes from the chickens' diet of grass, bugs and minerals found in the soil around them. Their unctuous, velvety texture and brilliant deep yellow-orange color would have—and probably did—set Van Gogh's heart aflutter.

Not to mention that pastured birds live their lives with the sun on their backs and the earth under their feet, taking dust baths and socializing with their friends rather than crowded under artificial light in dim barns, breathing the dust kicked up from the litter of their own urine and feces. Ick!

And yes, anyone who's cracked open a fresh-from-the-hen egg will notice that the white does cling to the shell much more tenaciously that its sad, store-bought sibling. That's because eggs in the grocery coolers, even those labeled as "pasture-raised," can be up to a month old when you get them home. (The above-mentioned writer even suggested buying store eggs, then keeping them in the fridge for "seven to ten days." That would mean they could be up to a month-and-a-half old. Imagine how great those would taste!)

So how to make those super fresh eggs peel easily? The trick is getting the egg white to release from the inner membrane (the "skin" on hardboiled eggs) and end up with perfectly unmarred whites for your platter of company-worthy deviled eggs.

The technique is dead simple:

  • Make sure your eggs are at room temperature. This will reduce cracking when submerging them in boiling water.
  • While they sit, bring a pot of water to boil over high heat.
  • Slowly lower the eggs into the boiling water.
  • When boiling resumes, set timer for 15 min. and reduce heat to keep at a low boil.
  • When timer goes off, immediately submerge them in an ice bath until thoroughly chilled, then peel.

How easy is that?

Oh, and the author of the article in question also said that it's overcooking that causes the "dark green ring around the yolk and a funky, sulfurous taste." Wrong again! In my experience, it's caused by not taking the eggs from the boiling water and immediately putting them in the ice bath as instructed above. Do that and you'll never again have that greyish-green ring on your yolks.

And if you're looking for some killer deviled egg recipes, here are four of my favorites!

In Season: Hear That? Spring is Sproinging!

It was just a few weeks ago at the tail end of January that my tipster about all things fruit and vegetable-y, Josh Alsberg of Rubinette Produce, said, "If I see one more rutabaga or turnip, I'll kick it!"

I knew exactly how he felt.

Nettles.

When we talked again just a couple of days ago, he was, not surprisingly, in a much more jolly frame of mind. After all, wild greens like nettles, fiddleheads, watercress and miner's lettuce were starting to appear on forager's hot sheets, and farmers' markets are inundated with bundles of the shoots of overwintered brassicas. Whether you call them raab, rabe or rapini (top photo), they're all packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals including antioxidants and phytochemicals, which have been shown to lower cholesterol, prevent heart disease and may help reduce the risk of cancer.

What's not to love about that?

Shungiku (chrysanthemum greens).

Other greens like mustards are in plentiful supply, including new-to-me Asian varieties like hon tsai tai, also known as kailaan; komatsuna, aka Japanese mustard spinach; and shungiku or crown daisy, which all have that familiar mild-to-medium mustard bite that is leavened with cooking or can add bite to a salad. Another Asian green popping up at local farms is Tokyo bekana, a soft, loose-leaf Chinese cabbage with frilly, pale green leaves that add loft to salad mixes.

Speaking of salads, Josh said that baby lettuces are beginning to appear along with early spinach varieties, and of course you can still find chard and kale aplenty, still sweet from lingering cool temperatures. Spring roots like radishes are coming in early due to our relatively mild winter, and bundles of sweet little hakurei turnips that add to any roast vegetable platter. And don't forget to use the greens from these roots—I love to roast them in a pan with other vegetables until the leaves get crispy.

PSB (aka purple sprouting broccoli).

Purple sprouting broccoli—a celebrity so cool it's identified by its acronym PSB—is also a star of the oven-roasted vegetable firmament. Josh said you can't go wrong searing it in a 400-degree oven, sprinkled liberally with salt and smoky urfa pepper. (Hint: Like many purple-hued vegetables, PSB will keep its purple hue as long as no water is used, so make sure it's roasted dry. Otherwise it'll fade to green.)

Local alliums are starting to arrive, too, so look for chives, green garlic and scallions, with spring onions coming just around the corner.

All of the above can be found at local farmstands and markets right now, and Josh said that full-on spring won't be far behind, with its fat spears of asparagus coming in late April and May, and local strawberries making their usual appearance starting at the tail end of April with our beloved Hoods holding off until June to make their debut. Rhubarb, often used with those strawberries, will be available starting in mid-April.

Red-veined sorrel.

Also look for herbs like mint, tarragon and thyme, which are beginning to trickle in and should be plentiful in the next few weeks, along with sorrel (green and red-veined), lettuces and summer squash. Wild mushrooms are on the way out, and Josh cautions that while morels can be found, prices are astronomical, so it'd be wise to wait a bit for the season to peak and for prices to come down before buying them in any quantity.

Me, I'm stocking my vegetable bin to the brim with sturdy greens for roasting and braising before grilling season gets going in earnest. Join me, won't you?

Your Food, Your Legislature: Mid-Session Report, and How You Can Help

The Oregon Legislature is at its midpoint, where bills have either been scheduled for a public hearing and work session and are moving forward, or are dying in committee, or are being sent to a Rules or Revenue committee where the mid-session deadlines don’t apply. A summary of the most important bills affecting our local food system is below, with links to take action.

Lobbying by Big Ag has killed the mega-dairy moratorium bill for now.

Moratorium on permits for industrial dairies (SB 583): Sadly, this bill that would have allowed a pause in the permitting of new and expanding mega-dairies has died in committee. Lobbying by powerful industrial agriculture interests have once again prevented the state from enacting reasonable protections of Oregon’s air, water, climate, rural communities, small farmers and animal welfare.

However, advocates were able to secure a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment and they need as many concerned constituents as possible to submit testimony to let legislators know it's not a subject that's going to get swept under the rug by powerful interests. Food and Water Watch has produced a template for your testimony that you can copy and paste into the legislative submission form. (Choose the meeting date of April 1, 2021, at 1 pm, then click on SB 583 to copy and paste your testimony.) Also consider sending a copy of your testimony to your legislator. For additional information on mega-dairies in Oregon, read my article "Big Milk, Big Issues for Local Communities."

Oregon needs more local meat processing facilities.

Grant program to increase meat processing capacity (HB 2785): Unanimously passed out of committee with a recommendation for passage, this bill establishes a grant program to fund the building, upgrading or expansion of local meat processing facilities. Oregon’s already acute lack of meat processing capacity has been exacerbated by COVID-19, and investing in processing capacity will go a long way in creating food system resilience post-pandemic. Amy Wong of Friends of Family Farmers said this program would build "infrastructure and hopefully technical assistance for bringing existing, and potentially new, processing facilities up to standards compliance."

It is critical for the members of the Ways and Means Committee and your legislators to understand the importance of helping rural communities recover from COVID-19 and build long-term rural economic development. E-mail committee members and also e-mail your legislators to let them know how much you value and support access to local food. For more information, read about how important access to local meat processing is to Oregon growers.

Oregon should expand access to organic food from local farms.

Oregon Organic Action Plan (HB 2269 and SB 404-3): The Senate bill (SB 404-3) had a successful public hearing on March 15th and is scheduled for a work session on March 29th. The House bill (HB 2269) would increase funding to the Oregon State University Extension Service for new positions related to organic production as well as funding for expanding the market for organic crops and products. This bill likely will end up in the Ways and Means Committee and it will be important for you to e-mail the Co-Chairs and let them know that we want more organic production in Oregon. And consider e-mailing your legislators to let them know how much you value and support access to locally grown organic food.

Funding for Double Up Food Bucks program (HB 2292 and SB 555): The Senate bill (SB 555) had a successful public hearing and work session and is currently in the Ways and Means Committee. The House bill (HB 2292) would continue funding to assist recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP) to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables from farmers' markets, farm share sites and retail outlets that participate in program. With nearly 1 in 4 Oregonians currently struggling to afford to buy enough food to feed themselves and their families, the number is closer to 1 in 3 in Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities. E-mail your legislators and let them know that this program not only helps keep our neighbors healthy by providing them with fresh, locally grown food, but also benefits our communities and supports local farms.

Manure digesters are a false solution to methane emissions.

Renewal of the Bovine Tax Credit (HB 2451 and SB 151): This bovine manure tax credit proposed to give taxpayer money via tax credits for an additional six years to industrial facilities like feedlots and mega-dairies that have methane digesters that produce biofuels. While industry claims that digesters reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the fact is that burning biogas actually releases carbon dioxide and other pollutants—including smog-forming nitrogen oxides, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide— potentially offsetting other greenhouse gas reductions. Tarah Heinzen, an attorney for Food and Water Watch, said they presents a false solution that doesn't address the underlying problem of methane emissions. At this point it looks like the House and Senate versions of the bill may have died in their respective committees and the tax credit will not be renewed.

Stay tuned for future developments in the 2021 Your Food, Your Legislature series as the legislative sausage gets made! 

Pot Roast Bourguignon: Reward for an Early Spring Workout

First thing every morning I grab a cup of coffee that Dave brews early each morning and I take out our Corgi, Kitty, to, as my mother would have said, "stretch her legs." While she busies herself sniffing out the latest news from every tree and shrub, I look up at our ash trees to see if they're starting to build their furry leaf casings—a sure harbinger on our little lot—and I take a moment to note which canes of forsythia need clipping and whether the bleeding heart has emerged from under the leaf litter.

From this…

Early spring around here means yard work, with its requisite raking, trimming and moving of plants to new spots before they're smothered in shade by larger neighbors or spread beyond their assigned places in what we loosely call our "landscape." Attempting to tame their natural inclinations is better achieved in the cooler temperatures we're having now, before it warms up and they explode with growth and we'd rather laze about and sip cool drinks than labor in the yard.

…to this in four hours. So worth it!

Cool days and still-chilly nights not only hamper this spring explosion, but also provide a last opportunity to get out the braising pot before warmer days beg for grilling outside. The heavenly pot roast recipe below is super simple and can be assembled and put in the oven to simmer for a few hours while you're outside doing yardwork. Plus it provides an excuse to schedule breaks every hour or so to check and make sure the liquid hasn't all cooked away (add water if it seems low).

The smell when you come in the house for those "breaks" will give you motivation to get the outside work done quicker, too, the better to come inside and enjoy a cocktail while you make a salad and boil potatoes to serve alongside. And sitting down to a hearty and flavor-filled dinner that basically cooks itself? I can't think of a better reward for all that hard work!

Pot Roast Bourguignon

This is extremely easy to make, but you'll need to get it in the oven four hours before dinner or make it the day before. Cutting back on the time in the oven makes for a less than stellar, though still delicious, result.

4 slices bacon, cut in 1/4" pieces
1 3-5 lb. chuck roast
Salt and pepper
1 lg. onion, chopped in 1/2" dice
4 lg. cloves garlic, chopped roughly
4 med. carrots, sliced in 1/4" rounds
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp. thyme
3 large bay leaves
2 6" sprigs rosemary
1 qt. (32 oz.) roasted tomatoes
3-4 c. red wine

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Put bacon in a large braising pot that can go in the oven and fry till fat is rendered and it starts to brown. Add onions and garlic and sauté 2-3 min., then add carrots and sauté 2-3 min. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté till tender. Stir in tomatoes, bay leaves and herbs, then add wine. Sprinkle roast generously with salt and pepper and add to pot. Bring to a boil, then cover tightly and place the pot in the oven. (If the lid doesn't fit tightly, put a sheet of parchment paper over the pot, then place the lid on.) Roast for 2 hrs. Remove meat from pot and slice in 1/4" slices, then return the sliced meat to the pot, submerging slices in the sauce and vegetables. Replace cover and bake for another 1 1/2 hrs.

Make a Difference in Our Food System: Join a Commodity Commission!

Love West Coast albacore? Passionate about beer? Want to do something to change Oregon's food system for the better? If you care about where your food comes from and how it's produced, please consider joining one of Oregon's commodity commissions. Most include a member of the public, so check out the list of the positions available and make a difference in our food system!

This year the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) is recruiting for 70 commodity commission seats, with a deadline to apply on March 15, 2021. Oregon’s 23 grower-funded commodity commissions support promotion, research and education to improve market conditions for their commodity.

A key point: they also give commissioners direct access to key Oregon agricultural opinion leaders and decision makers. Which means that new commissioners could help set the state's priorities going forward, encouraging the adoption of more regenerative, innovative practices rather than the business-as-usual, industry positions it has in the past.

Each commission has a board that includes producer and handler positions. Producers grow or harvest the commodity; handlers are the first to purchase the commodity from the producer and often are processors, distributors, or marketers. Most commissions also include a member of the public. Time commitment varies depending on the commission, and due to COVID-19 restrictions, remote attendance is an option.

Here are the commissions seeking public member applicants:

  • Blueberry
  • Clover Seed
  • Dungeness Crab
  • Fine Fescue Seed
  • Raspberry Blackberry
  • Strawberry
  • Sweet Cherry
  • Tall Fescue

Get more information and application forms. You can make a difference!

Pandemic Pantry: Sausage and Pasta Casserole with a Kick

I suppose you could call us the casserole generation. We were one of the first cohorts of children whose mothers were entering the work force in the largest numbers since WWII, mostly because inflation had been whittling away at the salaries of "breadwinners" (mostly dads) for years. But women were still expected to do all their "mom" duties like laundry, housecleaning and, of course, shopping and cooking, in addition to putting in 40 hours on the job.

That meant my mom came home from her work as a social worker after an hour's commute and had to get dinner on the table fairly quickly while my dad, who (bless his heart), came home around the same time, turned on the nightly news, put his feet up and sipped a scotch and water until Mom called us in for dinner.

So with three hungry kids and a husband to feed, I can't blame my mother for welcoming convenience foods like Hamburger Helper with open arms, or making classics like Swiss steak and Spanish rice that could simmer away in the electric frying pan while she ran upstairs to change out of her work clothes.

(Did she have a glass of wine in her hand? Maybe…)

Noodle casseroles figured prominently in the pantheon of dinner menus—the "primavera" version hadn't yet appeared and fancified it into "pasta"—with goulash, macaroni and cheese and, on Fridays, the holy tuna version. (I was never sure why fish on Friday was a requirement since we weren't Catholics, though I suppose Episcopalians run a close second in the rules-ridden churchy hierarchy.)

As the female child, I was called on to put down whatever book I was currently immersed in to help my mother with prep chores and getting dinner on the table. It meant I learned to chop and mix and simmer early on, which I suppose cemented my inclination to appreciate the tastier parts of life. For that I'm thankful.

The recipe below—which involves little prep but calls for two-and-half-hours of simmering—would have been unthinkable for a weeknight dinner in my mom's day, but it's do-able in pandemic times since so many of us are spending scads more time at home. (And everyone needs an occasional break from Zoom meetings, right?) It's a variation on the perennial penne alla vodka served at 3 Doors Down café, which itself starts with a variation on the classic Marcella Hazan tomato sauce with onion and butter.

As the classic commercial from my childhood trumpeted, "Try it, you'll like it!"

Penne alla Vodka Casserole

1 lb. penne
4 Tbsp. butter
1/2 med. onion, chopped in 1/4" dice
1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
1 qt. roasted tomatoes (or 1 28-oz. can tomatoes)
3 mild Italian sausages (~1 lb.) sliced crosswise in 1/4" coins
1 c. vodka
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 c. sour cream or whipping cream
1 c. Parmigiano-reggiano cheese, grated
Salt to taste

In a heavy-bottomed saute pan or skillet, melt the butter and add onion and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium-low heat until onion is translucent. Stir in the whole tomatoes with liquid and simmer for one hour. Add the sausage coins, vodka and oregano and continue to simmer for another hour. Turn the heat to medium high, add sour cream (or cream) and stir constantly for 10 minutes. Reduce to simmer and to cook for another 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

During the final half hour of simmering the sauce, bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Drop the pasta in the boiling water and cook, stirring frequently until tender but still firm to the bite, a little less done than usual "al dente." Drain well, put back in pasta pot, add sauce, then toss pasta with sauce and 2/3 cup grated cheese. Adjust for salt. Pour into 2 3/4-qt. casserole dish and top with remaining cheese. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.

Easterday Farms, Owner of Mega-Dairy Site, Files for Bankruptcy

In the growing scandal around the scheme that has been dubbed "Cattlegate," Easterday Farms is now tangled up in the bankruptcy of its sister company, Easterday Ranches, a giant ranching and feedlot operation in Washington state that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this month. The filing was made after a meatpacker sued Easterday Ranches for defrauding it of $225 million for 200,000 nonexistant cattle.

Cody Easterday.

Cody Easterday, president and CEO of Easterday Ranches, one of the largest agricultural operations in Washington State, is implicated in a complex modern-day cattle rustling operation involving 200,000 "ghost cattle" that apparently existed only on paper. Easterday was contracted to buy and feed the bovines for Tyson Fresh Meats, a division of Tyson Foods, then deliver them to slaughter at Tyson's processing facility, invoicing Tyson for their purchase and upkeep. The problem was that he never bought the cattle, but still invoiced Tyson for them, allegedly intending to use the money to cover losses he'd incurred in the commodities trading market.

An article in the Spokane (WA) Spokesman-Review said that on Monday (2/8), Easterday Farms filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy seeking protection from its creditors. It said "according to court records made public Tuesday (2/9), Easterday Farms has and continues to sell feed to the ranch side of the business that has been caught up in an alleged scandal of missing cattle owned by Wallula-based Tyson Fresh Meats Inc., a subsidiary Tyson Foods Inc."

The Easterday family. Cody (far left) and his father, Gale (center), ran Easterday Ranches.

In addition to being the president and CEO of Easterday Ranches, Cody Easterday is also the head of Easterday Farms—one of the many sprawling and intertwined holdings of the Easterday family that includes private planes, hangars, giant storage and packing sheds, restaurants and million-dollar homes. On its 18,000 acres in the Columbia Basin, Easterday Farms grows onions, potatoes and other produce, plus feed and grain for the cattle in the family's feedlot operations.

Easterday Farms is also the owner of the former Lost Valley Farm, the 30,000-cow mega-dairy that failed catastrophically in 2018 when the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) shut it down after issuing more than 200 violations of its permit in two years of operation. It cost millions to clean up the "environmental mess"—including 30 million gallons of manure and wastewater—left by the previous owner.

At the time of the sale in 2019, Easterday was required to reapply to the state ODA for a Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) permit to operate a 28,300-cow mega-dairy on the site, which it did under the name "Easterday Farms Dairy." While the ODA issued a "letter of satisfaction" at the end of 2019 for the cleanup at Lost Valley Farm, according to sources the Easterdays will still need to invest $15 million to bring the facility into full environmental compliance.

Cleanup from the failed Lost Valley Farm ran into the tens of millions.

Cole Easterday, a co-owner of the new dairy business, said, "Though the situation with Easterday Ranches and Easterday Farms is unfortunate, Easterday Dairy LLC’s commitment to our current CAFO permit and our permit application is unchanged,” according to an article in the Capital Press.

The article quotes Stephanie Page, natural resources program director for the ODA, as saying that the lawsuit and bankruptcy potentially add another layer of complications. "I think we’ve all been on the same page in terms of not wanting to jump to conclusions," Page said. "We’re just continuing to evaluate the info we’ve gotten about the business structures, and how they’re separate but also making sure we understand how they’re interrelated."

In an e-mail, ODA communications director Andrea Cantu-Schomus said that the ODA and the state Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are "required by Oregon law and EPA CAFO rules to consider all applications and issue permits for facilities that meet all legal requirements."

When asked whether the bankruptcy filings may impact the viability of Easterday's operations at the dairy, she said that the agencies are exploring Oregon Revised Statutes* and federal rules for CAFOs to determine whether they have the authority "to verify the ongoing financial status of an applicant and or operator" in the permit review. She termed the lawsuits and bankruptcy filings "a rapidly evolving situation" and that "the state will proceed with integrity and transparency."

Though this is hardly the ODA's first rodeo when it comes to issuing permits to large industrial facilities that go on to create problems.

“We know from experience that ODA and DEQ are likely to claim they don’t have the authority to deny Easterday’s permit,” said Tarah Heinzen, Food & Water Watch Legal Director. “Recent events underscore that this is just not true. They can deny a permit to any applicant who hasn’t disclosed all relevant facts or who has misrepresented any facts in their application. Easterday Ranches’ and Easterday Farms’ significant financial distress surely qualifies.” 

Cantu-Schomus later clarified in an e-mail when asked about whether the agencies are able to put a permit application on hold while determining its status that "there is no time requirement for ODA or DEQ to complete CAFO Permit development and start the public notice period."

Adding pressure to the ODA's permit process, a coalition called Stand Up to Factory Farms is pushing a bill in the state legislature for a mega-dairy moratorium in order to institute regulations on industrial factory farm dairies to protect Oregon's environment, air and water and the health of its communities.

In light of the Easterday scandal, the coalition issued a press release saying that "denying the [Easterday Farms] permit is not enough. It’s been clear for years now that these facilities housing tens of thousands of cows and producing waste on par with many cities are mega-polluters regardless of the operators. It is time for Oregon legislators to enact a mega-dairy moratorium to protect our state from irresponsible mega-dairy operators and prevent harms from massive industrial dairies until regulations are in place to protect Oregonians."

Amy van Saun, a senior attorney for the Center for Food Safety, responded in an e-mail to a question about the Easterdays' various businesses, "While the intricacies of the various Easterday entities may not yet be clear, including to state regulators, one thing is clear: Cody Easterday and the Easterday family are the principals and the ones accused of massive fraud in Washington.

"It is beyond the pale that ODA and DEQ would still consider permitting the Easterdays to operate such a massive new source of nitrates and methane in Oregon," van Saun wrote.

Read more about the Easterday Ranches scandal.

ORS 468B.217 and OAR 340-045

Photos from Easterday's public Facebook page.

Dorie Greenspan's Lemon Curd: Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

As I write this, I'm looking out my kitchen windows at snow-covered yards and roofs, listening to the crackle and crash of ice falling from our trees and the tapping sound of icicles dripping from our gutters. We've had one of our February dumps of snow followed by an ice storm that has left a quarter of the city without power, some of whom won't be reconnected for at least a week.

Fortunately, so far we have only experienced about an hour without power, though I've been forcing Dave to grind coffee in the electric grinder before we go to bed at night, just in case. Yesterday was Valentine's day, and Dave spent it smoking one of his signature briskets, as well as making a Japanese-style milk bread, which he's been obsessing over since reading about it on the King Arthur website.

It's a sweetened, fluffy white bread that was perfect with the deep, moist, peppery smoked brisket and it soaked up the dark, salty juices like a champ. But you might well ask why I'm writing about brisket and milk bread in a post that's supposed to be about lemon curd. It's because for breakfast this morning we had thick slices of that slightly sweet, spongy bread toasted and spread with the Meyer lemon curd I've been making by the quart lately.

You know my "thing" about Meyer lemons, right? I've currently got two big Mason jars of preserved Meyer lemons curing in their salty brine in the fridge, and the puckery tang of my Meyer lemon tart reminded me I wanted to learn to make lemon curd. After all, the lemon filling is basically lemon curd, right?

I set about searching for an easy, simple recipe for curd and ran across one by Dorie Greenspan, who begins her biography with the words "I burned my parents’ kitchen down when I was 12 and didn’t cook again until I got married." Since then, luckily for us, she's written 13 cookbooks and is the "On Dessert" columnist for the venerable New York Times.

Funny and smart, her writing is always delightful and, at the same time, down to earth, and her recipes—certainly the ones I've tried—are bullet-proof. The same proved true when I made her lemon curd, which she describes as having a "texture [that] is smooth and comforting and its flavor is zesty, a delicious contradiction."

It takes less than half an hour to make, assuming you've got lemons on hand—either regular or Meyer lemons will work—and the result, while fabulous on scones, biscuits or that toasted milk bread, is something you'll be tempted to sneak spoonfuls of when no one's looking.

And yes, I actually have her personal blessing to share it with you. Thanks, Dorie!

Dorie Greenspan's Lemon Curd

1 1/4 c. (250 grams) sugar
4 large eggs
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup (I made up a substitute using 1/2 c. sugar dissolved in 2 Tbsp. hot water)
3/4 cup (180 milliliters) freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 to 6 lemons)
1 stick (8 tablespoons; 4 ounces; 113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Whisk the sugar, eggs, corn syrup and lemon juice together in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Drop in the pieces of butter.

Put the saucepan over medium heat and start whisking. You want to get into the corners of the pan, so if your whisk is too big for the job, switch to a wooden or silicone spatula. Cook, continuing to whisk—don’t stop—for 6 to 8 minutes, until the curd starts to thicken. When it is noticeably thickened and, most important, you see a bubble or two come to the surface, stop; the curd is ready.

Immediately scrape the curd into a heatproof bowl or canning jar or two. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and let the curd cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.