Friday, July 24, 2009

Farm Breakfast

Hi everyone! I'm finally back in Portland, though not without a few mishaps along the way. My car is currently stuck down in Grants Pass, at the Nissan dealership, due to what has been so delicately termed as 'CATASTROPHIC ENGINE FAILURE'. Yep. Plus, my family is in town, for my mom's outrageously short summer vacation (she teaches special education, and between summer school and the regular year she gets too-little time off. But she's amazing, so she's totally ok with it), and we've been spending all of our time on the phone with various customer service representatives. Not a lot of fun. I have so many amazing things to share with you, but it's been tough to steal away to the computer to talk about veggies while I'm dealing with a minor vehicular emergency.

But hey, this is a food blog, not a complaints form, so, how about some shots of a gorgeous breakfast made from ingredients from my family's farm, Camp Joy, in Boulder Creek, California!

A simple bowl of oats, fruit, nuts, yogurt, and honey, enjoyed on the porch of the old house on the hill above the farm. There is really no way to express how amazing this place is. It's more than a farm, its a place of family, education, children, love, good food, good music, community, continuity, generations, activism, sustainability, appreciation, and perfect California sunlight. Coming here is coming home, and I am so grateful that, in this special place, the journey from farm to fork is a matter of feet, not thousands of miles. What's more, the beauty of the people that take care of this land really shows in the quality of the food, the health of the plants, and the happiness of the animals. It is so inspiring to be connected to something so fundamentally part of the solution to our world's problems. Starting with breakfast.

The apples and berries came from the orchard and blackberry patch. The yogurt was made the day before from fresh goats milk, from the happy, silly goats on the farm. Check out this goofball, on the roof of the goat house...

The honey is from bees, constantly buzzing around the lavender and every other plant. Once, I was digging up potatoes and got stung by a bee, right in the middle of my forehead. I got a big, swollen red bump, right on my third eye. Since then, the Camp Joy bees and I have been polite, but wary. That being said, I am extremely grateful for what they do for the garden and the world. A pollinator researcher, E.O. Wilson, famously stated in 1996 that we should, every third bite of food we take, thank a bee. And that number goes way up on a small, organic farm. So, thanks bees.

It just feels better to know where my food comes from, not to mention to have a small hand in picking it, raising it, fermenting it, and loving the land it comes from. It's how I eat well, and hope to for many years to come.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Hey all! As I type this, goats are prancing mere feet from me, I can hear bees buzzing, and the air smells so heavily of tomato plants it's intoxicating.

No, I'm not in my Portland house. I'm spending the week at my family's farm, Camp Joy, in Boulder Creek, California, and would LOVE to show you all the amazing things growing, the delicious meals we've been having, the goats that climb on top of their houses and the fresh chevre and yogurt made from their milk, the ducks and their kiddie pool and their beautiful eggs, the amazing cucumbers and squash, the almost-ready tomatoes, the two beds of baby plants for which I laid irrigation drip tape (hey, even I can get my farm-labor pants on when given the opportunity), and the CSA roundup I helped put together for other people (fun role reversal there)... BUT... like a complete goon, I totally forgot the cord to upload photos from my camera to my computer.

So you don't get to see any of that (yet). I'll be back in Portland next Wednesday, when I'll be picking up my CSA box from Rainyway farm directly, seeing as I won't be back in time for the Saturday farmers market. You'll be able to see the CSA roundup on the land it was grown. I'm excited. In the meantime, I'll be spending my time harvesting food from the source - one of my favorite places on earth, with family. It's a rough life.

On a side note, I've been thinking about the nature of my blog lately. Perhaps this is coming out now because I can't hide behind pretty pictures, but I'm realizing that my life is about so much more than food (although food is, admittedly, a huge part of it) that it's odd that most of my blog entries have been bare-bones "what I eat" accounts. I'm thinking of opening up the scope of this silly internet writing-thing, and account for more than three or four meals a week here on Lemonbasil. Now, I can't promise that I'll do anything exciting or that someone will want to read about my house-moving trauma or homework, but hey, this is already kind of voyeuristic of you, reading what I eat and all, so I think you can handle it. Just a thought.

Eat well!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Baked Huevos Rancheros with Squash, Peppers, and Soyrizo

I've got so much food left to use before tomorrow's market. Next year, I'm getting a half share. It's Friday, and I've still got a bunch of cauliflower, fava beans, and a big pot of lentil-veggie soup I made up yesterday that will probably find its way to the freezer. Maybe I just need to have more dinner parties.

I bought a bottle of enchilada sauce at Trader Joe's last week, and it has been working its way into just about everything I eat. I was going to make a simple eggy scramble with some fresh squash and peppers from the CSA box, but I thought, why not jazz it up a bit and pull out a ramekin for some baked eggs.

Uh oh, now you know the sad state of my non-stick pans...

While the oven was preheating to 350 degrees, I diced and sauteed one yellow pattypan squash with one green chile, and added a bit of soyrizo, a soy version of chorizo that I also got at TJ's. When such a cool store is literally across the street, it's hard not to pick up fun stuff like that. I added a bit of enchilada sauce and spooned the mixture into a ramekin, topped with some shredded cheese, and cracked an egg on top. Into the oven for about 10 minutes, though mine took longer because I really hate runny egg whites. Just keep an eye on it, until it's cooked how you like it.

That's it! Pretty simple, I just topped mine with some greek yogurt and pico de gallo salsa, toasted up some sourdough, and enjoyed some brunch in my pajamas. Life is good. Anyone want some veggies?

Eat well!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Best Zucchini Bread Ever

Every vegetable enthusiast has a special place in her heart for the humble zucchini bread. It's one of those cherished ways to make a dent in the inevitable onslaught of summer squash, and it's always fun to sneak healthy (green!) food into baked goods. The only problem is that most zucchini breads have a lot of white. White flour and white sugar, that is. It's really hard to find a recipe that uses 100% whole wheat flour, people just seem afraid that the result will be inedible without some refined, bleached flour. In the pursuit of a healthier, happier zucchini bread, I decided to take on those critics. Also, I still have the better half of a 50 lb bag of whole wheat flour in my kitchen cupboard. Full disclosure.

I'm not going to lie, I'm really proud of this recipe. It was, as these things have been going lately, greatly accidental, but this time I measured my ingredients and was rewarded with something well worth making and passing on. In addition to using only whole wheat flour, I used maple syrup instead of white sugar, and I used a combination of fats - good cream butter and some raw coconut oil, melted down and mixed with fresh eggs. I added the zest and juice of one lemon (note to parents: bring more lemons when you visit, I'm almost out! And some figs, while you're at it!). It's all pretty simple, but, trust me here, this is the best zucchini bread ever. Hands down. And packed into the whole-wheat,maple-y goodness is 3 packed cups of grated zucchini. I don't really know what made it so good, but it's moist, decadent, and just the right mount of sweet. I think this will become a summer staple around my house, and it should freeze really well.

Lesson learned, we shouldn't be afraid of 100% whole wheat. It can lead to some pretty fabulous recipes.

Eat well!

100% Whole Wheat Maple Zucchini Bread
3 Eggs
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup raw coconut oil, melted
1 1/4 cup real maple syrup
Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon
3 cups well packed Shredded Zucchini
2 1/2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Baking Powder

Preheat oven to 325.

In a large bowl, beat eggs, butter, oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and syrup together. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet and fold in the zucchini.

Pour batter into two greased 9 inch loaf pans. Bake 50 minutes or a tester comes out clean. Enjoy!

Sweet Broccoli and Kohlrabi Salad

I've been so excited to get a bag of broccoli every week from the farm, because that means I can make one of my favorite dishes - sweet broccoli salad. The inspiration for this dish comes from a traditional Americana salad, traditionally made with broccoli, bacon, raisins, red onion, and a sweet dressing of apple cider vinegar, mayo, and sugar. We used to (ok, still do) eat a version called Joan's Broccoli Madness at Souplantation, or Sweet Tomatoes depending on your region, and it is so addictive. I was surprised to find how easy it was to make at home, and how well it adapts to the various contents of my CSA box.

Today I made a version with blanched broccoli, apricots, and sweet, tender kohlrabi, spring onions, and flavored with fresh basil and chives, along with some diced fresh hot peppers.

Have you ever cooked with kohlrabi? This funny looking plant belongs to the cabbage family and got its name from a German word meaning "cabbage-turnip". They look like a root vegetable, but they grow above ground in a bulb shape, usually purple or green. The purple ones are a bit sweeter. The peel can be a bit woody, so slice it off with a paring knife before using, especially in salads.

I've been happily using the young bulbs from the farm, steaming them and eating them with butter and salt. They are absolutely delicious, and taste like a sweet cauliflower or broccoli stem. It's hard to describe, but they are so good, you should definitely try them if you can find them. For this salad, I threw two bulbs in boiling water for two minutes, and sliced them into matchsticks. I added them to broccoli that I had blanched, diced some white spring onions, and added a diced pepper (you could use a jalepeño or a milder Anaheim pepper), chopped basil and chives, chopped walnuts, and chopped dried apricot.

The key to this salad is the super simple and adaptable dressing. The original (and simplest) version is below, but I've tried it a couple of ways and come up with a simple formula - 1 part creamy, 1 part vinegar, 1/2 part sweet. The creamy can be mayo, yogurt, sour cream, or whatever you've got. I like a combo of mayo and yogurt. The vinegar should be on the sweet side - I use apple cider vinegar, but I'm sure rice or red wine would be great. The sweet can be any kind of sugar, honey, agave, I've even tried maple syrup. I like to add a bit of pickle juice, and a pinch of salt. Trust me, it's hard to mess this up. I'd recommend starting with the original recipe and adjust it to your tastes.

This is one dish that just gets better with time - the broccoli absorbs the sweet dressing, and the kohlrabi stays crisp and interesting. I've talked to a lot of people about this dish, and have gotten so many different stories and recipes in response. Some people add cheddar cheese, some people caramelize the onions, or use toasted hazelnuts and cherries. Fool around with what you've got in your fridge and cupboards. You won't be disappointed.

Eat well!

The original Souplantation recipe:
Souplantation's Joan's Broccoli Madness Salad
6 to 8 servings
1 bunch uncooked broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon
1/2 cup cashews
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped red onion

1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Mix the broccoli, bacon, cashews, raisins and onions in a large bowl. In a second bowl, beat dressing ingredients together gently until smooth. About 10 minutes before serving, toss the salad with the dressing to allow flavors to meld.
(From Souplantation.)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Spontaneous Raspberry Cobbler

Sometimes a person needs warm baked goods, and sometimes a person doesn't have a recipe, or flour.

And sometimes that results in a totally spontaneous, haphazard fruit dessert. And sometimes, when that dessert has fresh Oregon raspberries and yogurt in the mix, it can be really, really tasty.

I was shuffling around in my cupboards yesterday, wanting to make a patriotic-ish dessert using the raspberries from the farm, but I've been out of all-purpose flour for a long time and haven't brought myself to buy more. I really wanted a cobbler or a crisp, so I was looking for some bit of forgotten pancake mix or muffin mix, which occasionally make their way to our cupboards. I found about half a box of vanilla cake mix from Trader Joes, the kind that is flavored with real vanilla bean scrapings. I had no idea how much was left in the bag, and the instructions on the box were for the whole container without measurements, so I decided to wing it and take my chances. I mixed an egg, 1/3 cup of canola oil, the juice and zest of one lemon, and a half cup of plain yogurt with the mix (there was maybe a cup and a half left) before mixing in a pint of raspberries. I sprinkled the top with brown sugar and popped it in the oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

I guess with cobblers and crisps, the range of possible textures and consistencies is pretty broad, so I didn't worry too much if the batter was thin or too thick, two sweet or not sweet enough. I just trusted my hands and my random non-measurements, and threw everything into a bowl. I love this kind of cooking because I'm not committed to an outcome - I don't need the finished product to be just like a picture in a magazine, or a flavor at a restaurant. It's just being familiar with ingredients and letting the star of the kitchen - the fresh produce - really shine.

Sometimes, recipes aren't necessary, baking mix can be a life saver, and fresh fruit makes up for any discrepancy such spontaneity can create. Here's to learning to trust my instincts. Small victories.

Eat well.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

CSA Roundup #3

Happy Fourth of July!

I rolled out of bed really early this morning to pick up my third farm share box, but "my farmers" were up even earlier. Ron and Joan are such troopers, they are up every market day at 4 am, putting together the CSA boxes and traveling to the city. Ron was telling me that they had to turn down an invitation to go to a Independence Day BBQ last night because they turn in so early on Friday nights.

Here's what I found in my box this morning:
-4 Heads of Cauliflower
-2 Knobs of Kohlrabi
-2 lbs of Fava Beans
-2 Pints of Raspberries
-2 lbs of Broccoli
-2 big Sweet Onions
-Bunch fresh Shallots
-3 Yellow Squash
-2 big Zucchini
-2 Chili Peppers (Yay!)
-2 Heads of Cabbage
-1 Bunch Kale
-1 Bunch Mixed Fresh Herbs

Whew! I'm off to the coast for fireworks tonight, and will probably be bringing along a mock-potato salad with the cauliflower. Seriously, 4 heads... at least they are on the small side. Last night I ended up mixing the fava bean salad with a bunch of brown rice, to make it go farther. That was a good decision. I still have leftovers in the fridge, which tasted even better this morning.

Hope your 4th is full of good friends, good beer, and great food. Eat well!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fridays with Fava Beans

It is SO HOT in my house. Just thought I'd share.

In other news, two big bags of fava beans have been sitting patiently in my crisper drawer (where I wish I could be right now), waiting for me to get around to the inevitable endeavor of prepping them. If you don't know anything about favas, also known as broad beans or windsor beans, they are getting to be pretty common around farmers markets in the Spring, and can even be found popping up in supermarkets and international food stores. They require a bit of work - they come in big, leathery pods while felt-like interior walls, and need to be blanched and squeezed out of their waxy shells before eating - but they are really delicious. I think they taste a lot like edamame, and a bit like lima beans.

I woke up this morning knowing today was the day - I put on some music, pulled out the beans, and got to work. I was reading Bon Appetit's August issue yesterday and there was this ad for a cushy gel-like mat for you kitchen floor, to help your back and feet when you're standing in the kitchen for long periods of time. This morning would have been a great time to try it out. After wrestling all of the beans from their tough pods, I was a bit discouraged to see the relative sizes of my piles - I started with about four pounds of whole pods and was left with about two cups of beans, the rest being compost-worthy scraps of pods and strings. I threw the beans into boiling water for two minutes before draining and setting them into an ice bath. Then, round two, I set about squeezing the individual beans from their coatings. It sounds like a lot of work, but it's not too bad, and the time went quickly as my roommates and I were debating the correct onomatopoeia for fava beans coming out of their coatings. At first, I was going with SPLORT! but after a round of careful listening, we settled on PFTTH!

At this point, the beans are completely melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and ready for purees spread on crusty bread, soups, salads... I've even seen fava bean baked goods floating around the blogosphere. I have to use up my CSA bounty before I pick up another box tomorrow, so I made a big bowl of Spring Vegetable salad, with freshly-hulled, blanched sweat peas, radishes, cucumbers, spring onions, feta cheese, and herbs - mint and basil. I topped it off with a dressing of lemon juice (I still have a few lemons from a big bag I brought home from a visit to California), canola oil, apple cider vinegar, salt, and red pepper flakes. I also added a splash of dill pickle juice, a trick I learned from a German exchange student who lived with us years ago. I'll be bringing the dish to a pre-4th of July bash tonight, and it should go really well with whatever is on the grill. I don't have any definite plans for tomorrow night, but I'm a big fan of fireworks, so I'm sure it will be fun.

I'm off camping again next week, not sure where I'm headed just yet, but I'll be sure to be sweating. Summer has come to Oregon, and I can't wait to see what that means at the market tomorrow. More tomatoes and cucumbers, I hope!

Eat well!