In Season: Garlic Scapes, A Primer

This week Market Master Ginger Rapport of the Beaverton Farmers Market sent out a primer on garlic scapes, the curly green whips that are the flowering stems of the garlic plant. They are at their tender best in late spring and early summer,  when they still have their signature curl—if they're not harvested, the stems will straighten out and point skyward, by which time they also get hard and fibrous.

Rapport quotes market vendor Emma Rollins of Sun Feast Farm (top photo), who waxed eloquent about her favorite allium:

"Solstice time feels like the right moment to talk about garlic. This is when garlic scapes, the flowering stalk of garlic, curls and twirls its leek-like body in the most fantastic way! For me as a farmer, garlic scapes mark our true turn toward summer, always arriving right around the longest days of the year.

Curly whips of garlic scapes "mark our true turn toward summer."

"As days lengthen, plants respond. Onions size up and the garlic needs you to pick the scape so its energy can go into the bulb, not up to the flower. If you left it, the garlic would flower in a purple pom-pom of little blooms. Each of these flowers turns to a bulbil, a little garlic seed, which is how garlic propagated itself before people began harvesting the bulb or head of garlic and breaking it up into the cloves to replant and propagate more that way.

“Why is garlic MY timekeeper? We plant garlic as the season closes, [at] Halloween time. Tucking cloves into the dark cold wet soil as so much of the field wilts back with frost for the season, garlic begins to turn the wheel toward the promise of next season. We finish the year planting into the next. We follow the sun by looking to the garlic that sprouts in the depth of winter, and come February, with the Persephone—when we enter over 10 hours of light a day, what a plant needs to actively grow—garlic marks this time and comes to life. There is green garlic before the bulb starts to form, then scapes for solstice [with] harvest come July when the stalks begin to dry out and sometimes tip over.”

So once you get your garlic scapes home, then what?

These flowering stems of the garlic plant present myriad delicious opportunities.

The simplest way to prepare them is simply throwing them on the grill after trimming off the end of the stalk. (Some recipes will have you coat them in oil, but I find that the oil drips off and causes the coals to flame up, which deposits a bitter film of burnt oil on your vegetables.) After a couple of minutes the scapes will brown over the fire, so turn them over and brown the other side. Then put them on a plate and drizzle with a good olive oil, salt and maybe a squeeze of fresh lemon. The easiest side dish or appetizer ever!

Just this last week I made a pesto from fresh scapes, processing five or six with a big handful of parsley from my neighbor's garden along with the requisite garlic, pine nuts (or walnuts or hazelnuts) and enough olive oil to make a smooth paste. Stir in some finely grated parmesan and you're ready to stir it into pasta or garnish a piece of salmon.

Rapport reports that her assistant market manager, Sue Poff, received a jar of garlic scape powder "made by her son who grows a ton of garlic every year" and she describes the flavor as "milder than regular garlic powder but used in much the same way." Easily dried if you own a dehydrator—drying them in the oven at its lowest setting is just as simple, though it may take longer—just slice the scapes into one to two-inch pieces and, once dried, grind them to a powder in a spice grinder or blender.

Garlic Scape Frittata

I love frittatas because they can be made from whatever vegetables or meats you happen to have on hand, sautéed and combined with eggs. Quick and easy, forgiving and always delicious, it's almost the perfect meal!

2 Tbsp. butter or olive oil
1/2 each green, red and ancho peppers, or about a heaping cup of any peppers, finely chopped
4 green onions, sliced into 1/8" slivers
4-6 mushrooms, halved and sliced thinly
5 garlic scapes, sliced in 1" pieces, leaving the bulbs intact
6 baby Yukon Gold potatoes (1 cup) chopped in 1/4" cubes
12 eggs
1/2 c. cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter over medium heat until it sizzles. Add potatoes and sauté briefly till slightly tender. Add rest of vegetables and sauté until very tender. While vegetables are cooking, break eggs into a mixing bowl and stir until well-mixed, adding salt to taste. When vegetables are done, pour the eggs over the top, sprinkle on the cheese and cover the pan, reducing the heat to low.

When the eggs are cooked on the bottom but still runny on top, put the pan under the broiler briefly (just don't walk away or get distracted like I sometimes do!). When lightly browned on top, remove the pan from the broiler.

To serve, run a spatula around the inside of the skillet to loosen the eggs. Then invert a serving platter over the skillet and, holding them firmly together, turn the platter and skillet upside down. The frittata should plop out of the skillet onto the platter.

Top photo from Beaverton Farmers Market, a generous sponsor of GoodStuffNW.

Fresh Inspiration: Gochujang Roasted Albacore and Fried Rice

I don't know about you, but this is the way it goes at our house: I'm browsing through recipes online or reading an article about our local fisheries—it is, after all, part of my job—and I think, "Gosh darn it, we need to have more fish in our diet."

Then I close the window or finish the article and forget about it.

But this summer we've invested in a CSA subscription from Stoneboat Farm, which means I will be picking up our share every Saturday morning for 23 weeks at its booth at the Hollywood Farmers Market. And that just happens to be across the aisle from the beautiful display at Linda Brand Crab which, in addition to the eponymous crab in its name, usually has a plethora of other local, fresh-out-of-the-water fish and shellfish on offer.

Quick and easy roasted fish presents multiple delicious possibilities!

After I picked up our share this past weekend, I glanced across the aisle and noticed some beautiful rosy albacore tuna loins for a very reasonable price. So I picked up a small-ish, three-quarter pound piece and stashed it in the shopping bag with my vegetables, figuring I'd come up with something for dinner that night.

As usual the afternoon got involved, this time with a trip to the garden store for compost, digging it in to amend the dead soil in our raised beds, planting the tomatoes, peppers and ground cherries from Alice at Log House Plants, and suddenly the clock somehow said it was time to make dinner.

Oops. The albacore!

A quick scan of the veg bin—this is where a CSA really comes in handy—made the decision a snap, and with my homemade gochujang and other staples at the ready, I came up with a simple and, it turned out, incredibly delicious solution. Not just a terrific way to supplement a vegetable stir fry, this roasted fish would be great to use with any firm-fleshed fish as a main course with rice and salad, or sliced into cubes it would make a terrific appetizer right out of the oven (or off the grill) this summer.

Plus it makes it easy to fulfill that pledge to include more fish on our table!

Gochujang Roasted Albacore with Vegetable Fried Rice

For the marinade:
3/4 lb. albacore loin, sliced in 1" thick sections
3 garlic cloves, finely minced or pressed in a garlic press
2 Tbsp. gochujang
1 Tbsp. miso (I'm addicted to locally made Jorinji miso)
1 1/2 tsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. water to thin

For the fried rice:
4 c. leftover cooked rice*
4 c. vegetables, chopped in bite-sized pieces (I used cabbage, carrots and zucchini)
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped in 1/4-inch dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. ginger, peeled and grated
2 Tbsp. gochujang
2 Tbsp. miso
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 bunch green onions, sliced into 1" lengths
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°.

Place a sheet of parchment paper in a roasting pan.

Chop vegetables for stir fry.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together the marinade ingredients. Thickly coat each piece of fish in the marinade mixture and place them on the parchment paper in the roasting pan. Reserve any remaining marinade for the fried rice. 

Place roasting pan in oven, roasting for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside while you cook the fried rice.

In a deep sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the chopped onions and sauté until it starts to become translucent. Add the ginger and garlic to the onions and sauté briefly, then add the gochujang, miso and any remaining gochujang marinade and cook for 1 minute, stirring to keep it from sticking.

Add vegetables starting with the ones that take the longest to cook (like carrots, then zucchini and cabbage) and sauté until crisp-tender. Add pepper flakes, fish sauce, sesame oil and green onions and heat briefly, then add cooked rice.* Cook for at least 5-10 minutes to heat the rice, then season to taste with more fish sauce, miso or sesame oil if it seems bland.

Cut the roasted fish into 1" pieces and place on top of the fried rice. Serve, sprinkling with toasted sesame seeds if desired.

* It's not necessary to have cooked rice on hand—I've made rice just beforehand with no problem. If you need to cook rice, bring 4 c. water to a boil and then add 2 cups long grain or jasmine rice. When it returns to a boil, turn down the heat to low and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes. You can cool the rice at this point, or use it hot.

Astiana Tomatoes: Ayers Creek Farm Legacy Lives On Through Seed

The photo appeared on my phone with the message "Spotted at Portland Nursery today!" It showed a tomato plant in a four-inch plastic pot with a label stating "Astiana Tomato."

Along with the other stunningly delicious vegetables, corn and pole beans grown by Anthony and Carol Boutard at Ayers Creek Farm—I counted more than a dozen varieties of dried beans at one point, though many more may not have measured up to their exacting standards and been shelved—these tomatoes were feared lost to their adoring fans when the Boutards sold the farm in 2022.

Astianas fresh from the field at Ayers Creek Farm.

Fortunately a few area farmers had the presence of mind a few years back to start growing out these open-pollinated tomatoes, but remember, if you only start with a few seeds, it can take several seasons to have enough seeds to produce fruit in sufficient quantities to supply customers. So the descendants of the original Astianas were available from a few farms in limited quantities, though none had ever been grown for nursery stock aimed at home gardeners.

Enter legendary plantswoman Alice Doyle of Log House Plants in Cottage Grove, who saw the value of adding this remarkably stable variety to her list of 180 other tomato varieties. "It's a really good tomato for this region," she said, ticking off its disease-resistance and the fact that they are self-pollinating, as well as the care the Boutards took in selecting seed every year.

Doyle related that Anthony would have the first fruits to ripen in the field for his breakfast every morning. She said he would cut them open and, if they were fragrant and didn't have many seeds—these are paste tomatoes, after all—those were ones he'd save.

Chopped and ready to roast.

Taking the Boutard's breeding program one step further, Doyle grafted the Astianas onto a root stock, a technique she observed on her travels in Crete. Calling it a sustainable procedure that results in four to five times more fruit per plant, it also increases the plant's resistance to soil-borne disease. A side benefit was that Astianas were already resistant to late blight, an airborne disease best known for causing the devastating Irish potato famine of the 1840s.

Doyle was surprised at the number of requests she'd been getting from nurseries and home gardeners for them. "I can't believe how many people are asking for them," she said. Though anyone who remembers the long line of customers during tomato season at the Ayers Creek Farm booth at the Hillsdale Farmers Market could have assured her that these late season beauties were more than worth seeking out.

As the plant tag, written by Anthony himself, says, "excellent to sauce, preserve and eat fresh. From a landrace tomato where the 'Sound of Music' was filmed near Asti in the Po Valley of Italy. Selected and refined by Ayers Creek Farm, Oregon, as the best tomato for the 45th parallel."

Astiana plants are available from several local nurseries including Portland Nursery and Cornell Farm, as well as in the Seattle area, according to Doyle. She instructs: "Do not bury deep so the graft is as far away from the soil as possible. Match the level in the pot so the scion doesn’t root in and compromise the benefits of the rootstock."

Read the archives of Anthony Boutard's fascinating Farm Bulletins that chronicle the seasons at Ayers Creek Farm here and here.

Spring Salad: Barley, Asparagus and Mint Tabbouli

Points have been deducted from my lifetime hosting score because of my penchant for trying out new recipes on guests. Fortunately very few of them have been complete disasters, and with enough wine and a smashing dessert—the old saying about ending on a high note is worth hewing to—how could anyone complain?

The other night was a prime example. Dave had marinated a whole bone-in pork leg in a pernil-style rub, then smoked it for six hours, rendering it lusciously juicy and with an enviable red smoke ring just inside the crust. I'd gone to the farmers' market for spring lettuces for a salad dressed with my new favorite vinaigrette, and picked up asparagus because, well, duh, it's asparagus season and who can resist?

Arabian barley in the field.

Our guests for that evening were on a low-carb, low-salt regime so a "starch"—I've written before about the "meat, starch, vegetable" rubric that's imbedded in my middle-class, WASP-ish DNA—needed to be something other than the usual risotto or pasta or potatoes.

Fortunately I remembered there was a pound of barley I'd stashed in the freezer, so a grain salad seemed like a healthy solution. Parsley and mint were threatening to take over the garden, and darn it if that asparagus might come in handy, too.

Oh, and did I mention that Dave had made a raspberry sorbet for dessert? High note hit!

Barley, Asparagus and Mint Tabbouli

For the vinaigrette:
1/2 c. olive oil
6 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

For the salad:
2-3 c. cooked barley, either hulled or whole grain
1 c. coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 c. coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 c. finely sliced spring onions, red onion, or sweet onion
1/2 to 1 lb. asparagus, cut into 1" long pieces and lightly steamed
Salt to taste

If using unhulled barley, soak overnight prior to cooking.

Put 8 oz. uncooked barley in the bottom of a large saucepan and cover with 2-3" of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook, adding water if it gets too dry, until the barley is cooked through but still has a nice resistance when you bite into it…don't let it get mushy. (Unhulled barley will take longer than hulled barley.) Drain and rinse in cold water to cool. Transfer 2 to 3 cups, depending on how much grain you like in your tabbouli—I like less grain, more herbs—to a large mixing bowl, add remaining ingredients and enough dressing to moisten. Combine and, if time allows, let it sit for an hour or so for flavors to meld. Serve at room temperature.

While the barley cooks, make the vinaigrette. Take any tightly lidded pint container—I often use a jam jar—put all the ingredients into it, screw on the lid and shake like the dickens over the sink in case, as once happened, the lid didn't seal as tight as I thought and I ended up dressing the kitchen instead of the salad. It can be made ahead and stores well for several days in the fridge.

Check out these six salad recipes that will keep you inspired all summer long!

Taking On Cultural Imperialism: Andrea Nguyen's Righteous Anger

I love a good rant, especially one that expands my own entrenched—read: unquestioned/lazy/privileged—attitudes, and noted chef, cookbook author and teacher Andrea Nguyen has a doozy on her eponymous blog:

"It’s aggravating to read again and again that the Mediterranean diet is the way to go for healthy habits. The implication is that something associated with the geography of Europe is the only thing we can turn to to save ourselves!" Nguyen wrote of a recent special section in the New York Times on the Mediterranean Diet.

"We all lead cross-cultural lives and we cook and eat that way too," Nguyen stated. "The Diet has become a meme that smacks of cultural imperialism," exemplified by the introduction to the section by Times reporter Alice Callahan that states "definitions of the diet have evolved over time, so we won’t limit ourselves to fare from the Mediterranean region."

Nguyen, who was born in Vietnam, won a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Cookbook in 2018 for "The Pho Cookbook" and is a 2024 nominee for her new book, "Ever-Green Vietnamese: Super Fresh Recipes, Starring Plants from Land and Sea." She also writes freelance articles for the Times, which makes her speaking out about the topic in a public forum both unusual and courageous.

The section in the Sunday New York Times was titled "Healthy, Simple, Delicious: How the time-tested Mediterranean diet can offer real benefits, with recipes to help you get started" (top photo).

A photo the Times used as an illustration (above) is just one example. "The cultural takeover is strong," Nguyen wrote. "For example, this stock photo of a 'Mediterranean diet' includes avocado, tomato, and what looks like a knob of ginger. And, is that turmeric in the lower left?"

Nguyen, after reading the section then seeing the cartoon above in her Instagram feed, said it reminded her of the reason she started writing in the first place. "If I remained quiet and let the Mediterranean diet swallow up foods like tofu and avocados without respecting their place of origins (China and the Americas), I wouldn’t be doing my job," she wrote.

Nguyen pointed out that the section emphasizes five categories of foods as exemplars of the diet: whole grains; fruits and vegetables; legumes/beans/lentils; nuts and seeds; and finally, healthy fats. But she noted that those five categories are representative of traditional diets around the world, and referred to the Blue Zone studies that found five locations on the globe where people consistently live healthy, active lives to well over 100 years of age.

Saying it's time we came up with a broader, more inclusive descriptor for a healthy diet than one coined in the middle of the last century, she wrote, "We should learn from other cultures because they speak to our modern experiences, which is intersectional and cross-cultural. We should identify and respect what those cultures have to offer, not slide everything into a comfortable, digestible rubric."

All I can say is, "Hear, hear!"

Asparagus Risotto an Antidote to Spring's Chilly Rains

It's spring in the Northwest, which means we're getting two inches of rain in as many days thanks to an atmospheric river deciding to flow directly over the Willamette Valley, dumping its heavy load before climbing over the Cascades. The good news is that spring, being the Janus-like, capricious spirit that it is, will be whiplashing us with temperatures in the mid-70s to mid-80s within the week.

Until that happens, though, we still need to pull on our Muck boots and hooded parkas for another day or two and hit our local farmers' markets, many of which are fortunately opening for their regular seasons this weekend. I managed to make it to two of them, the Beaverton Farmers Market yesterday—a generous sponsor of the blog you're reading—and my intimate neighborhood King Farmers Market today.

Both were brimming with bounteous goods from growers and makers, and among other things I picked up several bunches of beautifully green asparagus to carry us through the week. Ready to go in the oven to roast, chopped into a quiche or frittata, or in a risotto like the one below, these green spears will be equally delicious grilled as is or chopped into a salad when those warm temps get here.

Spring Asparagus Risotto

1 lb. asparagus, tips removed and reserved, stalks sliced into half-inch pieces
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 Tbsp. garlic, finely chopped
Spring onion or green garlic, finely sliced (optional)
2 c. arborio rice

1 c. white wine
4 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese plus more for the table
Salt to taste

Put half of the chopped asparagus stalks in the food processor and purée (add a teaspoon or so of water, if needed, until smooth). Set aside.

Put stock in a medium saucepan over low heat. In a deep skillet or larger saucepan, heat oil and butter over medium heat. When it shimmers, add onion and garlic, stirring occasionally until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add white wine, stir, and let liquid absorb into the rice. Add warmed stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring frequently. Each time stock has just about absorbed into the rice, add more.

When you have used about half the stock, add the puréed asparagus, asparagus tips, plus spring onions or green garlic (if using), stirring to combine, then continue to add stock as necessary. In 5 minutes or so, begin tasting rice. You want it to be tender but with a bit of crunch; it could take as long as 30 minutes total to reach this stage. Add the cup of parmesan and stir briskly, then remove from heat. Taste and adjust salt. (Risotto should be slightly soupy.) Serve immediately.

Community Action Shuts Down Proposed Industrial Chicken Factories

It was a scary moment for Oregon. A giant national chicken producer, Foster Farms, was attempting to site three industrial-scale chicken facilities near Salem that would house up to 13 million chickens in notoriously crowded, closed barns

Just one of those facilities, operated on a contract with Foster Farms by Eric Simon, a longtime poultry farmer in Brownsville, would have included 11 barns measuring nearly 40,000 square feet each—a football field is just over 57,000 square feet—each one containing six flocks of up to 580,000 chickens per year, totaling 3.48 million birds. Simon's J-S Ranch received a permit in 2022 to begin construction of the industrial barns from the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). This was despite strenuous objections from community members and farmers in the area concerned about foul odors and toxic emissions that would threaten water quality, potentially forcing neighboring farms out of business.

A typical "free range" chicken factory, with chickens living in their own feces and urine.

Local opposition took the form of an organization called Farmers Against Foster Farms, which joined a coalition of community and environmental organizations against the plants. Amy van Saun, a senior attorney at Center for Food Safety, one of the partners in the fight, said, "ODA and DEQ cannot ignore this mega-chicken operation’s likely pollution of the North Santiam River, a federally protected waterway.”

An article in the Salem Statesman-Journal reported that a petition requesting reconsideration of the permit charged that the facility’s permit only addressed discharges to groundwater but added there was also the potential for discharges to surface water. “This includes aerial deposition of ammonia from chicken barn fans into the river, and runoff of contaminated stormwater,” and argued that four inches of compacted soil in the barns, required by DEQ, was not enough to protect groundwater, saying that other states require as much as 12 inches.

Farmers launched a simultaneous effort at the county level asking Linn Country commissioners to define where Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) could be built in the county, requesting change requiring a minimum one-mile setback from property lines on properties where new large CAFO’s may be sited.

Community residents celebrate their victory.

In the hearing commissioners heard from constituents about their concerns over protection of drinking water, local rivers, odors, ammonia emissions and proposed facilities being close to a local elementary school and church. One person called the proposed setback a “good guardrail” against the large farming operations owned by hedge funds that make profit a priority over livelihoods of local residents. 

"Some of those who testified fought back tears as they talked about their farms, whether they are relatively new to the area, or are living on land owned by their families for five generations," according to a press release from the county. After vigorous debate, commissioners voted for the one-mile setback.

Following the vote by the county commissioners, two of the three factory farms withdrew their proposals, and in April of 2024 the ODA reversed the permit for J-S Ranch ahead of a challenge that was scheduled to go on trial in early May. It was a day for communities to celebrate, helping set a precedent for other communities threatened by industrial agricultural developments.

Photos from Farmers Against Factory Farms' Facebook page.

In Season: Spring Fling

While one friend has dubbed the past few weeks "Nov-April" and is calling out the next few as "May-vember," farmers across the state are heralding the official start of spring. Farmers' markets in most communities are opening their regular season schedules this weekend, though in some places they will wait until June, so check your local market website for official dates and times.

Ginger Rapport, market master of the Beaverton Farmers Market, is over the moon in anticipation of spring's bounty. "By their very nature, the early vegetables are light, fresh, and delicate, and the dishes made with them reflect these qualities," she wrote in a recent newsletter.

Spanish calçots are a great excuse for a spring fling!

And I wholeheartedly agree with her pronouncement that the star of the spring show is asparagus. From slender varieties to more robust, meatier stalks, you'll find both green and purple asparagus in abundance at market booths. (Here Rapport reminds market-goers that purple asparagus, like purple pole beans, turns green when cooked.)

From risottos to salads to quiche to pizza, asparagus is almost infinitely versatile. Even simply roasted in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil and a shower of chopped garlic and salt—and sure, throw on some chopped preserved lemon just before serving—it threatens to outshine any main dish in the vicinity.

Alliums, particularly in their springy infancy, are also on display in the form of spring onions, scallions, green garlic and the fabulous Spanish calçots which have entire festivals in their honor in that countrySee my recent post on how to throw your own Calçotada with the traditional red pepper-and-almond salbitxada sauce. And don't forget the curvy whips of garlic scapes, the thin, vibrant green stalks that grow from the garlic bulb and are terrific grilled and chopped for pizza, salads and, well, almost anything!

While local strawberries are only just beginning to appear in markets, and available only to those early birds who grab them before vendors sell out, there are plenty of other stellar finds to make your trip to the farmers market worthwhile.

Tender and delicate spring lettuces are abundant.

On my trip to the Hillsdale Farmers Market last Sunday, I loaded up on the tender redleaf and maple leaf lettuces from Gathering Together Farm that will get a drizzle of my new favorite honey and mustard-infused red wine vinaigrette. I also picked up the cutest bunches of baby bok choy that will get roasted and incorporated into a stir fry, pizza or grain salad in the near future.

Greenville Farms from Forest Grove was full to bursting with stacks of various kinds of raabs and other sprouting greens, from collard to kale to spigarello. I can safely say that next to spring lettuces, these inflorescences are the spring vegetable I most look forward to after the end of my beloved chicory season. Read Ginger's explainer about the various varieties grown locally, along with a recipe for a balsamic reduction that is nothing short of miraculous.

Garlic scapes add zing to spring dishes.

Greens like arugula, spinach and sorrel (see my recipe for a killer sorrel salad) are seeing their day in the spring sun, too, along with local fennel and peas—both sugar snap and snow peas—which should be plentiful through May. Zucchini and other summer squashes like patty pan and the ribbed costata romanesco, all ideal for grilling or roasting, will be around into June.

And don't forget spring herbs like parsley and cilantro, oregano, chervil, thyme and chives are here, too, so chimichurries and other herb sauces are definitely called for. Microgreens and young shoots of favas and peas should also make your list. They will only get more abundant as the season rolls along.

Mmmmm…rhubarb crisp!

And I can't conclude this without mentioning my true heartthrob, rhubarb, that vegetable-masquerading-as-a-fruit, that is one of the first desserts of spring, at least around here. See my version of my Aunt Nell's Rhubarb Crisp below, and be sure to make my spectacular rhubarb syrup for your summer sippers and cocktails.

Excited about spring now? I sure am!

Aunt Nell's Rhubarb Crisp

For the topping:

1 c. flour

3/4 c. uncooked rolled oats

1 c. brown sugar

1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon

1/2 c. butter or margarine, melted

For the filling:

4-6 c. rhubarb, cut in 1/4" slices

1 c. sugar

1/4 c. triple sec, Cointreau or other orange liqueur

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

Mix together dry ingredients in medium sized bowl. Pour in melted butter or margarine and stir with fork to distribute. When well-mixed and crumbly, scatter on top of fruit in pan (below).

Slice fruit into large mixing bowl. Add sugar, water, cornstarch and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Put in 9” by 12” by 2” baking pan. Scatter topping mixture evenly over the top and bake in 350 degree oven for 55 min.

Spring Means Alliums Aplenty: Celebrate with a Spanish Calçotada!

It all started with those little, bright green, lantern-shaped peppers called pimientos de padrón—known more familiarly as "padrons"—that only required a quick blistering in hot oil and shower of salt to melt my knees as soon as I popped one in my mouth. For awhile they were only available from one vendor—the late, lamented Viridian Farms at the Portland Farmers Market—but pretty soon they were being featured on the hottest chef's menus all over town.

A couple of years later I heard about another Spanish delicacy that had appeared on Viridian's roster, a spring onion called calçot (pron. cahl-SOH). In Spain they're harvested from November through April, and festivals known as calçotadas are held in towns all over the region.

Cooked on a hot grill until the outside layer is blackened but not charred and the inside is soft and creamy, the blackened outside layer is peeled off and the remaining onion is dunked in a tangy romesco-like sauce called salbitxada (sahl-beet-SHAH-dah). Then, holding the onion aloft by the greens, the trick is to lower the soft, saucy white part into your mouth and bite it off without having the sauce dribble all over your face. (This video explains it better than I ever could.)

With calçot season upon us, we finally held our own mini-calçotada on the patio. Traditionally served with beer and a variety of grilled meats, for our home version of a calçotada, Dave quickly grilled bone-in pork chops and I made an herbed rice pilaf with chopped tarragon, red-veined sorrel and parsley from the garden…though the drips on our shirts signaled that we may need some more practice on the eating portion of this spring festival.

Calçots with Salbitxada Sauce

For the salbitxada sauce:
4 Tbsp. blanched almonds
4 fresh bitxo peppers (or other mildly hot pepper), coarsely chopped, seeds and membranes removed
8 cloves garlic, peeled
4 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1/4 c. bread crumbs
1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 c. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the grilled calçots:
2-3 bunches (20-30) Spanish calçots or very young spring onions with long greens and a very small bulb

Heat oven to 350°.

Place almonds in hot oven to toast for 5-7 minutes. Place in a food processor and coarsely grind.

Mash ground almonds, peppers and garlic into a paste with a food processor. Add tomatoes, parsley and vinegar. Pulsing the food processor, drizzle in the olive oil until sauce becomes thick. Add salt and pepper to taste. (This sauce is terrific with any grilled vegetable. During summer months, consider serving it with grilled steaks or chops.)

To prepare the calçots, simple build a hot fire in a grill. On the grate over the coals, spread out the calçots with the white end facing the center of the grill and the greens extending over the outside edge of the grill (top photo). Grill, turning occasionally, so the outside is blackened but not charred and the whites feel tender when squeezed.

To serve, pull the calçots off the grill and peel off the blackened outer skin with your fingers. Grasping the greens in your hand, dunk the white part in the salbitxada sauce, raise the onion aloft and lower the white into your mouth, biting it off at the top of the white portion. When the calçots are all gone, whomever has dribbled the least sauce (or, I suppose, the most) on themselves is the winner!

A Box of Treats for the Women In Your Life that also Benefits Our Community

If you're wondering what to do for Mother's Day that will express your love for the extraordinary women in your life, I have a suggestion for you. Not only that, this gift will benefit women in our community experiencing food insecurity or those that are in need of housing services.

Who, what, where, when, you ask?

The local branch of a philanthropic organization of businesswomen in the culinary, fine beverage and hospitality industries, Les Dames d'Escoffier, is holding an old-fashioned bake sale as a benefit for local social services organizations.

For a donation of just $50 you will receive a bakery box overflowing with more than two dozen baked goods, homemade by members or curated from esteemed Portland pastry chefs. Imagine buttery shortbreads, chocolate chunk cookies, tea cakes, and even savory crackers—and I hear cookbook author Ivy Manning is making some of Ted Lasso's infamously irresistible shortbread cookies! Each box is unique and special, perfect for gifting and celebrating the women in your life.

Reserve your box here and plan to pick it up on Saturday, May 11—the day before Mother's Day—between 10 am and 2 pm at Parallel Food and Drink at 3101 NE Sandy Blvd. in Portland. The first 50 pre-orders receive a free copy of Cheryl Wakerhouser's "Petite Patisserie: Bon Bons, Petits Fours, Macarons and Other Whimsical Bite-Sized Treats." I also understand that there will be some individual treats for sale at the pick-up location, so drop by and treat yourself!