Simply in Season

News and reflections on all that's good about local food
from the co-author of Simply in Season,
a World Community Cookbook in the spirit of More-with-Less

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Cake that can't be beet? and Northwest Passage

The Simply in Season recipe of the week, Secret Chocolate Cake, is among those on what I call the SIS “hidden treasures” list: recipes that sneak in extra nutrition and tend to fool people who claim they don’t like various vegetables.

While a can of cooked -- but not pickled! -- beets (drained) can be pureed in the blender in a flash for this recipe, the cake was chosen especially with members of CSAs in mind. In a CSA -- community supported agriculture -- subscribers pay a farmer of a share of the season’s produce. Each week they receive a box of whatever is ripe. CSAs are structured differently from farm to farm but most don’t give the subscribers a choice about what foods they receive -- leading to excellent opportunities to try new foods, and also the challenge of dealing with those that aren’t family favorites.

Yet this is part of the beauty of a CSA: repeated exposure to new foods, opening the door to developing some acquired tastes. Dietician Marilyn Tanner notes that it may take 10 to 15 tries for a child to accept a new food. (I like the article on the preceding link but find it a bit ironic that it's posted on a juice website -- considering concerns about children drinking too much juice in lieu of eating much healthier whole fruits.) Adults probably aren’t much different.

I figure, the first step is just to get comfortable having a new vegetable around the house.

Call me a dreamer, but wouldn’t this be the greatest scenario: Mom or Dad gets home from the farmers’ market and the kids see beets come out the bag and yell, “Yay! We’re having chocolate cake!”

Personally, I’m still not a big fan of your basic boiled or pickled beets. But aside from the cake, which is delicious, I learned in the course of creating SIS that I do like Shredded Beet Salad (page 245). I particularly like the flavor beet greens give to stirfries and soups like Winter Borscht (243). You don’t get those with a can.

No time for more this week -- I’m busy getting ready for a workshop at the Good Earth Home, Garden and Living Show, coming this weekend to the Lane County Fairgrounds in Eugene, Ore. The workshop is slated for Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at the Cascade Stage, with books available from the University of Oregon Bookstore area near the Good Earth Cafe and Music Stage.

The plan is to share samples of Red Lentil Coconut Curry (206) and Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread (215) and to prepare on-site Red Taters and Green Grannies (253): my all-time favorite recipe title in SIS and an utterly easy but deliciously different dish I urge everyone to try. (Lovely with pork or sausage but also great with a cheese omelet or as a substitute for home fries. I prefer it as the main course, myself (occasionally directly out of the skillet), as I find I tend to ignore my eggs when I'm eating it.) It was great to bike out to the Corvallis Indoor Winter Market Saturday -- in only a dryish sort of rain -- and pick up lots of local produce from the good people of Gathering Together and Denison Farms.

Folks in the KLCC listening area may be interested in tuning in to the “Northwest Passage” this Thursday afternoon, Jan. 26, when I'll be talking with host Tripp Sommer about Simply in Season and the joys of local food.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Food, faith and sweet rolls

On Dec. 17, Simply in Season and its predecessor, More-with-Less Cookbook, were cited in a Dallas Morning News article about what it identifies as the latest trend: “cookbooks with a spiritual spin.”

The combination of spirituality and food may seem as odd to some as a peanut butter and bacon sandwich, but for others the combination is awfully appealing (who knew that sandwich appeared in early editions of The Joy of Cooking? Check out that last link). The Dallas Morning News article quotes Jana Riess, religion book review editor for Publishers Weekly, a journal of the book publishing industry, who “links the trend to growing interest in simple, daily spiritual practices that are ‘hands-on.’ ‘What could be more hands-on than creating meals that will nourish other people?’”

A key concept in the Mennonite faith tradition (which undergirds the World Community Cookbook series of which Simply in Season is a part) is discipleship: the idea of putting faith into practice in everyday life. We believe that faith is much more than a collection of beliefs. It must be made visible in our actions: what we say, what we do, where we work, what we buy.

Given the ramifications of the choices we make about food every day, maybe it’s not so strange to think that what we put in our mouths can be as much of a faith statement as the words coming out of our mouths.

Last spring one Generation X Mennonite suggested that Mennonite cookbooks deserve critical scholarship for the way they “[influence] and even [construct] Mennonite history, theology and culture” (Matthew Bailey-Dick in “The Kitchenhood of all Believers: A Journey into the Discourse of Mennonite Cookbooks,” Mennonite Quarterly Review, April 2005).

You needn’t be a Mennonite, a churchgoer, a Christian, a person of any particular religion or faith to want to make a connection between what you believe and what you eat. It’s my contention that we all enact our values at the table. More on this another week.

Several curriculums explore the connection between food and faith:
Hunger No More (Christian and Jewish versions available) from Bread for the World

Just Eating: Practicing Our Faith in the Kitchen, Presbyterian Hunger Project

Food for All (curriculum for children), Canadian Foodgrains Bank

Plus here’s the new review of Simply in Season from

* * *

It’s true anytime, but especially in the drear of winter there are few things more wonderful than fresh cinnamon rolls hot out of the oven. It’s my opinion that one of the most joyful tidbits in More-with-Less Cookbook is its advocacy of serving sweet rolls for desserts or snacks: they’re economical and satisfying, yet contain less sugar than cake or cookies.

Make your rolls with whole wheat flour -- or, better, with the Sweet Potato Crescent Roll dough from the Simply in Season recipe of the week -- and you’ve added a nutritional punch.

For a simple icing, beat together 1/4 cup of melted butter, 3 cups powdered sugar, the grated rind of an orange if available (better use organic in this case), and enough orange juice to make the desired consistency. Drizzle over the warm rolls.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Upcoming events

I’ll be presenting a workshop on local food at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28, at the Good Earth Home, Garden and Living Show, coming to the Lane County Fairgrounds in Eugene, Ore. The University of Oregon Bookstore will have copies of Simply in Season available for purchase, and I’d be glad to sign copies. Look for the Cascade Stage. If you were a recipe contributor or tester, please be sure to introduce yourself!

* * *
Farming with Values that Last conference

Whole-farm pizza, mobile meat retailing, and healthy soil are just three of the workshops set for the 2006 Farming with Values that Last conference, Feb. 24-26, at Laurelville Mennonite Church Center, Mount Pleasant, Pa., 50 miles east of Pittsburgh. This is the third annual such event planned by an ad hoc committee seeking to connect farming that works with faith that lives.

This year’s theme is “Models for the Journey,” reflecting the great learning that happens at this event as people of faith gather to worship, sing, share experiences and celebrate the opportunities within community-based sustainable agriculture.

David Kline, well-known nature writer and Ohio organic dairy farmer, will keynote the gathering with presentations Friday evening and Saturday morning. He brings a wealth of observations from his farm and insight from his life as an Amishman with extensive connections in the literary and agricultural worlds.

* * *
Voices Around the Table: Faith, Food and U.S. Farm Policy

Join the Mennonite Central Committee Washington Office in D.C., March 5-7, to explore farm policy's impact on rural, urban and international communities, and to envision the church's role in a food system that is just and sustainable for all.

The seminar includes biblical reflection, advocacy training, a panel on farm subsidies from across the political spectrum and workshops on everything from free trade agreements to genetically modified crops to hunger in the United States.

Early registration of $65 is due by Feb. 6. Visit for a brochure and registration information.

Take a walk on the wild (rice) side

The Simply in Season recipe of the week, Wild Rice Vegetable Bake, reminds me of a recent visit to the winter farmers’ market in Eugene. It had the usual selection of winter greens, squash, brussels sprouts, root vegetables, apples, local honey, and nuts. (Not to make anyone jealous, but one bonus of living here is the abundance of filbert orchards -- those are “hazelnuts” outside of Oregon -- and stall operators often give free samples. But I digress.)

As I turned the last corner, I was surprised to find packages of Oregon-grown wild rice. Just when you think you know what’s produced in your local area.

Turns out wild rice, North America's only native grain (and not a type of rice at all), grows well in the thick clay soil of the Willamette Valley. (The same thick clay soil has been a source of much frustration for neophyte gardeners like my husband Dave and I. “Use the Serenity Prayer and accept what you cannot change!” the local gardening columnist in Sunday’s newspaper advises. “Grant me the serenity to accept that, like diamonds, clay is forever; courage to add soil amendments; and wisdom to know when it’s time to start working soil in the spring!” Once again, I digress.) “Virtually all wild rice is grown in flooded fields,” one USDA source says. Huh. (I look out my office window.) Looks like my once-again flooded backyard is all set to go.

The Oregon Jewel Wild Rice website states, “The wetlands created for wild rice increases the biodiversity of the area, attracting all kinds of birds and other animals. The Lane County Audubon Society has placed [our] rice paddies on their list of birding sites. Testing has shown the water leaving wild rice paddies is cleaner and colder than when it entered.”

The majority of wild rice is grown where it originated, in southern Canada and Minnesota, but now also in California.

This article describes the history, production, and nutritional value of wild rice:

A second includes a description of the Native “rice moon” harvest, which began in late August to September:

Winona LaDuke’s thoughtful essay in Sierra magazine includes the Anishinaabeg legend which tells how this Native people was introduced to wild rice -- by a duck.

According to this source, wild rice is "done" when the grains are swollen and cracked down the side. If it's opened and looks like popcorn, it's overcooked. sells Oregon Jewel Wild Rice.

(And another great Simply in Season recipe to try is Light Wild Rice Bread, page 287.)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Floods, Splendid Table, and freezer-burned berries

Happy new year from a soggy Willamette Valley! We’re grateful the flooding here wasn’t any worse. The front page of this morning’s paper has a photo from one of our favorite local organic farms, Gathering Together, which had water going through a greenhouse and submerged fields, but seems to have escaped major damage.

“On the bright side, he figures the flooding probably did him a favor by eliminating some of the pests, such as moles, voles and gophers.”

The Simply in Season recipe of the week, Apple Carrot Salad, is a good excuse to link to an ode to apples -- and other fresh, local food -- by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of “The Splendid Table” from American Public Media.

Picked right off a tree during a trip to Italy, the apple’s “lushness could have had angels singing the Hallelujah Chorus," Lynne says. "And I've had more than my share of food so good I've grinned for days, but nothing like this. This was like being plugged into the universe.”

If this sounds like the rhapsodizing of an elitist gourmand, read on. While taste is part of the equation, Lynne continues:

“My apple moment reshuffled years of attempting to piece together why Italy is what it is and how food plays in its identities. I am not talking gourmet moments, I am talking about connection. Where thousands of years of agriculture is the bedrock of a country, food is the connector and the identifier. It has nothing to do with quality and everything to do with values.”


Back to this later, but for now just a couple of notes:

I’m looking forward to presenting a workshop on local food at the Good Earth Home, Garden & Living Show in Eugene, Ore., Jan. 28-29. Details to come soon.

Also, a recent discovery:

This is the time of year when those fortunate enough to have them are using frozen berries and fruits out of the freezer. Our strawberry patch did well this year, and a couple of gallons of berries went into the freezer. We like them plain, half-melted, as a side dish, or of course they're great with cereal, yogurt, or ice cream. Chilled Berry Sauce, Sherbet, or Fruit Smoothie are all delicious year-round options, too (pages 319-321).

But recently I found a bag that had been punctured, leaving the thawed strawberries tasting “freezer-y.” Good for nothing but compost?

Not true. Turns out that if you mash them up, those berries taste great in the beautifully moist Strawberry Bread (page 34).