Fermentation Fascination: Hot Sauce in the House!

Hot sauce is a staple in this house, whether it's sriracha—the global shortage of which has been greatly exaggerated, at least looking at the shelves of my local Asian market—or that vaunted product from New Orleans, Crystal Hot Sauce, containing just cayenne chilis, vinegar and salt. More than simply a condiment for shaking on eggs, tacos or stir fries, I use hot sauce to add depth to the cheese sauce for my macaroni and cheese, or to add zip to dips and deviled eggs.

Chopped, brined and ready to go into the basement!

So you can imagine my horror the other day when I discovered we were completely out of our usual hot sauces. Fortunately I was able to grind up some of the Ayers Creek Farm dried cayennes I had saved, so the dish wasn't completely bland, but boy howdy, it was a close one!

I'd collected a bag of assorted peppers—a few stray padrons, a couple of Jimmy Nardellos, anaheims and anchos from farmers' market trips and our CSA share that hadn't found their way into other concoctions—and a couple of hotter-than-all-get-out yellow-orange Bulgarian carrot peppers from my neighbor Bill, so I decided to chop those up and throw them in a quart jar with garlic and a salt brine.

I left them in the basement for a few days, and when they smelled oh-so-pickle-y, I brought them upstairs, drained them—reserving the liquid for thinning it to sauce-like perfection—and whizzed them in the blender. One sniff told me it was probably too hot for everyday use, so I threw in a couple of roasted red peppers I'd found in the fridge and tasted a tiny drop.

Hoo-eee!

Inspiration courtesy of the peppers at Eloisa Organic Farm.

It was better, but still a little too much heat, so I blended in a couple more roasted peppers and a pinch of salt, thinned it with the brine to pourable consistency and bottled it in old spice bottles I'd collected, which were the ideal size for table use.

Now, having seen farmers' market tables loaded with peppers, I'm hot (no pun intended) to make more. My friends Michael and Linda at Terra Farma in Corbett loaned me Fiery Ferments, a collection of recipes by noted fermentarians Kirsten and Christopher Shockey. With recipes and techniques for everything from hot sauces and chutneys to kimchi and other condiments, I can already tell it's going to be my bible.

But to get you started, here's the basic recipe for the hot sauce described above.

Assorted Peppers Hot Sauce

For the brine:
5 Tbsp. Kosher or sea salt
2 qts. water

For the peppers:
1 lb. assorted peppers
8 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

Make a basic salt brine by combining the salt and water in a large bowl or gallon container. Stir until dissolved.

Remove stems from the peppers and roughly chop them (including seeds and pith). Pack tightly into clean quart jars along with any spices—I just used the smashed cloves of garlic—then pour brine over them to within 1" of the rim of the jar. Keep peppers submerged in brine with glass weight or small zip-lock bag with brine in it. Loosely cap, set in a dish in case it bubbles over, and let it sit in a cool, dark place like a basement for 4-7 days. Strain, reserving brine, and blend. Thin to desired consistency, taste for salt. If it’s too spicy, add roasted sweet peppers, or if it needs more heat add roasted hot peppers.

Photo of peppers from Eloisa Organic Farm. Find them at the Hollywood Farmers Market and the Corvallis-Albany Farmers Market!

Editorial: State Must Permanently Deny Easterday Dairy Permit

The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) must deny a permit for the proposed Easterday Dairy to operate a 30,000-cow mega-dairy near the town of Boardman, Oregon.

Why deny the permit?

First, the Lower Umatilla Basin, the site of this proposed industrial operation, was designated a Groundwater Management Area (GWMA) in 1990 due to nitrate/nitrogen concentrations exceeding 7 milligrams per liter (mg/L). Nitrate concentrations in drinking water are linked with serious health concerns for infants and pregnant or nursing women, not to mention contributing to a variety of cancers and other health conditions.

Morrow County has declared an emergency due to nitrates in water.

In the more than 30 years since that designation, recent testing of drinking water from wells that draw from the groundwater shows the situation has grown even more dire. Even households that were fitted with reverse-osmosis filters designed to filter out nitrates were shown to have levels of the pollutant "between 29 parts per million to nearly 48 parts per million—up to nearly five times the federal safe limit" according to an article in the Oregon Capital Chronicle. 

In the same article, it quotes the technician who called with the test results from the six samples as asking, "No one is drinking this, right?"

Because of the extreme levels of nitrate pollution in the groundwater, mostly from agricultural sources, Morrow County has declared an emergency and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering using its emergency authority to intervene in the region.


The technician who called with the test results from the six samples
of water asked, "No one is drinking this, right?"


Then there's the history of the specific site of the proposed dairy. Initially developed as the 30,000-cow Lost Valley Farm—which has been reported on extensively here—owner Greg te Velde began building even before he had state permits in hand. In 18 months of operation, the state issued more than 200 citations for environmental violations ranging from overflowing manure lagoons, cows forced to stand in their own filth and dead animals overflowing a dumpster. Te Velde himself was arrested in a prostitution sting and charged with felony meth possession. Lost Valley declared bankruptcy in 2018.

Cody Easterday.

The scion of the vast Easterday Farms agricultural empire in Washington State, Cody Easterday, bought the failed facility for $66.9 million in early 2019, promising to clean up the heavily polluted land and restore it to profitability. Renamed Easterday Dairy, it almost immediately ran into its own set of soap opera-worthy dramas.

Cody himself turned out to have a gambling problem, which led him to create a "ghost herd" of cattle to disguise his debts, eventually pleading guilty 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.


Easterday Dairy intentionally applied almost three times the allowable amount of nitrogen fertilizer on the property during the 2021 crop season.


Those troubles exacerbated the issues with the dairy, with the state putting an indefinite "pause" on the permit even though the Easterday family replaced Cody's name on the permit with that of his 25-year-old son, Cole. Moreover, according to the Kennewick, Washington, Tri-City Herald, "despite a January 2021 warning about nitrate levels, the landowners say Easterday Dairy intentionally applied almost three times the allowable amount of nitrogen fertilizer on the property during the 2021 crop season."

Drought map of Oregon with mega-dairies (blue dots).

Then in July of this year, facing years of delay and with mounting financial issues and more violations even with no animals onsite, Easterday proceeded to sue the former owners of the property for breach of contract, asking for $14 million in damages or to be released from the purchase agreement, according to several news sources.

The issues with increasing nitrate pollution from decades of state mismanagement in the region, which is also experiencing increasing drought conditions due to climate change along with a drain on the at-risk aquifer from agricultural uses, should by itself condemn the permit. But the catastrophic damage at the site and the actions of the owners speak to the need for a permanent denial of another mega-dairy for the good of the environment, the people in the community, and the air, water and groundwater we all share.

Top photo from Stand Up to Factory Farms. Photo of Cody Easterday from Easterday's public Facebook page. Drought map from Food and Water Watch.

A Little Goes a Long Way: Fermented Shiso

Okay, so this recipe is hitting on several cylinders at once for me. It's Korean, a cuisine I'm exploring these days—see the recipes for Kimchi and Gochujang I've written about recently—and it fits into the category of banchan, a collective name for small, pungent side dishes served with rice. And, like kimchi, it's a fermented food, a category that scared the dickens out of me for most of my life due to the dire warnings of my mother, who had the misfortune to major in dietetics in college at a time when anything that wasn't cooked within an inch of its life was sure to kill you on the spot.

It's made using shiso leaves, halfway between a leafy green and an herb that the New York Times described as "a mysterious, bright taste that reminds people of mint, basil, tarragon, cilantro, cinnamon, anise or the smell of a mountain meadow after a rainstorm." (Ooooookay…?) I'd say it's flavor is on the same spectrum as cilantro: definitely pungent, with a slightly minty twang. Shiso is, for me, a little strong to use in a salad, for instance, but the process of fermentation and the other ingredients in the brine—soy, ginger, garlic and the Korean ground peppers called gochugaru—seem to tame its somewhat, shall we say, overpowering personality.

The recipe is adapted from a book I absolutely love, Tsukemono: Japanese Pickling Recipes by Ikuko Hisamatsu, a collection of quick, easy recipes for everyone from beginners to masters. It was recommended to me by Kevin Gibson of Portland's Davenport restaurant when I asked about good books on pickling, since I'd known about his fascination with the art from his days at Evoe, where he had a literal bank of large, colorful jars of pickled items displayed on the front counter.

Another nice thing about this particular ferment is that it only takes overnight to work its magic. Plus it only makes a small amount, since the leaves shrink mightily in the process, so you're not stuck with jars and jars of the stuff hanging around in the back of the fridge.

So far a small chiffonade has accented rice dishes, a curry, grilled fish and even deviled eggs. I'd say that's a darn good start!

Fermented Shiso Leaves in Soy Sauce

Adapted from Tsukemono: Japanese Pickling Recipes by Ikuko Hisamatsu

30-40 shiso leaves
1/4 c. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. gochugaru (Korean ground red pepper)
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. green onion, minced
1 tsp. ginger, finely grated
2 tsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. sugar

Gently wash leaves under running water and pat dry with paper towels.

In a small mixing bowl combine soy sauce, sesame oil, gochugaru, garlic, green onion, ginger, fish sauce and sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar.

Lay leaves in several layers in a small flat-bottomed dish. Spoon pickling liquid over the top. Place a slightly smaller dish on top and put a weight in it (I used a can of beans) to press it down. Let stand for one hour and remove the weighted dish, scraping off any pickling liquid that sticks to it. Cover with lid or plastic wrap and let the dish sit on the counter overnight. The next day put it in the refrigerator. It should keep for at least a couple of weeks, if not longer.

In Season, Pt. 2: Peachy Advice

In this week's Beaverton Farmers Market newsletter, Market Master Ginger Rapport sent some very timely advice on choosing and preparing the peaches that are tumbling in from our area orchards. Since I have six of these beauties sitting on my counter slowly ripening, and a promise from Dave that they'll be made into some juicy, sweet delicious pastry item, it seemed appropriate to share her recommendations.

The peach originated in China, and the Chinese believe the peach tree to be the tree of life.  The peaches are a symbol of immortality and unity. In America, we like them simply because they are juicy and delicious. They are the third most popular fruit grown in the States. Here at the Beaverton Farmers Market, they are synonymous with summer, and are at their peak right now!

Among its many attributes, a medium peach is a mere 37 calories and is high in vitamins A, B, and C. Because a fully ripe peach is delicate and easily bruised, you will often find them sold just “under-ripe.” To fully ripen your fruit, place them on the counter in a brown paper sack, folded closed, for two or three days. (Do not try this in a plastic bag. As the fruit respires, it gives off moisture which will collect on the plastic bag and cause the fruit to rot.) The ripe fruit will be soft and fragrant. Refrigerate them at this point. 

Peaches come in two categories—cling or freestone. The flesh will either cling to the pit or easily pull away. Depending on what you will do with it, make sure you know which kind you are buying. A cling variety will thwart your efforts if you plan on cutting them in half to place on the grill.

Like the plum and the apricot, peaches are members of the rose family (Rosaceae), distinguished by their velvety skin. If the peach fuzz bothers you, try rubbing the fruit with a terry handtowel after washing, it will diminish the feel of the fuzz on your mouth. Of course, you could also choose to purchase nectarines instead if the fuzzy skin bothers you. 

Nectarines and peaches are nearly the same genetically, but a gene variant between the two causes peaches to have fuzzy skin and nectarines to have smooth skin. As a result, peaches and nectarines have a similar flavor profile and can be used interchangeably in recipes.

Should you wish to peel a peach, nectarine, or tomato for that matter, either for eating or cooking, we recommend the following method:

Make a small X in the bottom of the peach with a paring knife. Immerse in a pot of boiling water for 20 – 30 seconds or until the skin splits. Be careful not to over-boil, or you will start cooking the flesh. If the skin never releases, your fruit isn’t ripe enough. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of ice water to stop further cooking. Next, remove the skins, which should easily slip away.

Once the flesh of the peach is exposed, it will begin to brown. Keep submerged in the ice water until you are ready to use it. Toss cut peaches with lemon juice to delay the browning process.

 To find a plethora of peachy recipes—jams, tarts, sorbets, salads and even cocktails—just click here and here.

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.