Thursday, December 12, 2013

Week Nine: Fresh Pressed Cider, Simple Baked Salmon, Coleslaw with Cranberries and Hazelnuts, and Roasted Ozette Fingerlings

Cider Pressing with Barb of City Fruit
Last Tuesday was Terra Madre Day, the international celebration of local food. Wanting to showcase Pacific Northwest bounty, I asked my friend Larry Liang, who volunteers for the nonprofit City Fruit, if we could borrow their wooden cider press (I'd seen it in action at a recent fundraiser and knew the kids would love it). Being the awesome guy he is, Larry arranged for fellow volunteer Barbara Burrill to bring the press as well as local apples and expertise. What a treat.

Barb brought several varieties to taste: Honeycrisp and Pazazz (from Collins Orchards in Selah), plus Golden Delicious, Spartan, a Ben Davis seedling, and an unidentified apple from the Burke-Gilman Urban Orchard, which comprises 27 trees between the University Bridge and west of Gasworks Park. Barb and other volunteers maintain the trees, donating the harvest to food banks.

Cider Pressing with Barb of City Fruit
Bugs love apples, which is why commercial orchards use so many pesticides, why apples top the
Environmental Working Group's "dirty dozen" list, and why we should buy organic whenever possible. Barb showed us a clever method of protecting against coddling moths: a lightly-waxed sandwich bag secured over the seedling. The bag allows sunlight, doesn't disintegrate in the rain, is organic and compostable. (It tickled me to learn this, as I had assumed when biking the Burke that the occasional paper-festooned tree was an art installation.)

Cider Pressing with Barb of City Fruit

We discussed the history of apples and why so few varieties are available in grocery stores, given that there are over 75,000 varieties and Washington State is the largest exporter in the nation. Apples have long been bred for beneficial qualities, but there is often a trade of taste for shelf life, which gave rise to the bland but easy-to-store Red Delicious, still Washington's most popular export (although Gala is gaining). Fortunately each year sees an increase in varieties available locally, and in our farmers markets, orchards like Collins, Booth Canyon in Okanogan, and Jerzy Boys in Chelan bring interesting heirloom varieties to sample and buy. Once you've tasted a complex, interesting apple, you will find it hard to consider anything with "Delicious" in its name as more than marketing.

Cider Pressing with Barb of City FruitAs expected, the kids had a great time with the cider-making process, from halving the apples, carving out and discarding the "yucky bits," loading the hopper, and turning the crank. It took a lot of muscle and everyone got a turn at the wheel.

Cider Pressing with Barb of City Fruit

Then it was time to press, and as beautiful as any other kind of magic, the cider poured out, a rich amber, almost like caramel. We gathered around for a toast, clinking glasses and quaffing a beverage as old as apples themselves. Now it was time to get busy with the rest of our menu.

Cider Pressing with Barb of City Fruit
Sadly, my camera ran out of battery after this photo. I couldn't resist these gorgeous cabbages, one (the red one) four times as expensive as the other (Savoy). The rosemary is from a decades-old plant in my garden. But the real star of our meal was the Makah Ozette potato (the photo is from Slow Food).

Makah Ozette, photo courtesy Slow Food
The Ozette enjoys the distinction of having come straight from Peru to the North America, without going through Europe. Some 200 years ago, Spanish explorers brought it to Neah Bay, where they attempted to homestead before tiring of the weather. The Ozette has been cultivated by the Makah ever since, though not commercially grown until the 1990's, and (along with the Great Plains buffalo and over 300 other items at risk of extinction), it is now listed on Slow Food's "Ark of Taste." Check out this Herbfarm video about the Ozette for more information. Now grown by several local farms and in home gardens (including my own), they repopulate like crazy, as long as you leave some stock in the ground. However, they are also very tasty, so it's hard to keep any around. Luckily, my friend Nina Laden, who grows them in her garden, had some to spare.

Short on time, we quickly scrubbed the Ozettes (mixing them with a variety of other fingerlings), plucked the pin-bones out of the salmon, and shredded the cabbage and carrots. Prep Lead Eric ran a tight ship, and twenty minutes later, the meal was ready. Plate Lead Alena set a lovely table (with proper utensil placement, a vanishing skill!). Gratitude Lead Kosma gave thanks, and we dove in.

This cell phone photo doesn't do justice to the food, but wow. Talk about eating the rainbow. The flavors and textures were just as various, and lip-smacking. Almost everything was local and seasonal. It was the kind of meal you want to serve with wine, but, given our company and the occasion, we made do with a cocktail conjured of the remaining cider, stretched with lemon juice and tea. And it too, was good.

Following her nose (we had amped up the garlic on the potatoes), sixth grade math teacher Ms. Dowell found her way to the kitchen and accepted our invitation to the table, engaging in a lively chat with the students. It was gratifying to show off their work, which is not just the food but the attitude. These kids are learning survival skills in the purest sense: ways to nurture themselves and community and the biodiversity of our planet. Which, happily, is a lot of fun . . . both to teach and to learn.

(Big thanks to Larry, Barb, Nina, whose generosity made this a memorable class, and to Mary, who comes every week to help out and has probably never washed so many dishes in her life. You are all rockstars.)


Fresh Pressed Cider


10 pounds of apples (the tarter the better)


  1. Prepare cider press with large pot for catching cider.
  2. Wash and cut apples, removing any insect-damaged parts.
  3. Feed apples into the hopper of cider press.
  4. Take turns turning crank to grind the fruit into a pulp, called mast.
  5. Crank pressing plate down on the mast to free up the juices.
  6. Pour cider into glass and enjoy!

Simple Baked Salmon

A perfect local food to celebrate Terra Madre day, wild salmon needs little to enhance its umami. This recipe can be made with frozen thawed or fresh wild salmon. Serves 4.


  • Four 3-oz wild salmon fillets
  • Olive oil
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon, quartered


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or paper, brush with oil. Lay salmon skin-side down and season with salt and pepper. Bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Serve with lemon.

Roasted Ozette Fingerlings

Flavorful, nutritious, and easy to cultivate in home gardens, the Ozette potato, brought to the area by Peruvian explorers and cultivated for 200 years by the Makah tribe, is definitely worthy of saving from extinction. Serves 6-8.


  • 2 pounds Ozette potatoes, washed and cut in quarters length-wise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line large baking sheet with foil. Toss potatoes with rosemary, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. The potatoes should be a single layer (use two sheets if needed). Roast for 20 minutes or until crispy outside and tender inside.


Coleslaw with Cranberries & Hazelnuts

Cranberries and hazelnuts are grown in the Pacific Northwest; local foods perfect for celebrating Terra Madre day. This recipe is colorful, kid-friendly, and adaptable to what you have on hand. Serves 4.


  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Demerara (or regular) sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 cups shredded cabbage (a colorful mix is nice)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts (or pecans, walnuts, or almonds)

  1. Toast nuts briefly in a dry pan or under a broiler. Set aside to cool.
  2. In your serving bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, sugar, and salt.
  3. Add cabbage, carrots, green onions, cranberries, and nuts, and toss to coat.
  4. Ideally, allow to sit for 30 minutes before serving so flavors can meld.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Week Eight: Tomato-Basil Bisque with Croutons, and Greens with Mustard Vinaigrette

Our guest expert this week was my friend Lesa Sullivan-Abajian, private chef, cooking instructor, and a frequent volunteer (beloved by Seattle nonprofits and farmers markets). Lesa has a heart of solid gold, or perhaps the culinary equivalent, Plugra. As engaging as she is knowledgeable, she navigated our often-chaotic classroom with grace, spicing the lesson with amusing metaphors and tips.

We began class with a welcome to new students (hello Kosma and Jade!), the obligatory washing of hands, some mint tea and Marash-pepper pumpkin seeds I'd roasted ahead of time, the volunteering of leads (prep, plate, gratitude, and KP), and review of our vocabulary list. I don't expect the students to remember the words, but weekly exposure will increase familiarity, and perhaps even pleasure, with the French terms. It's more important to remember how to assemble a "mise en place" than be able to say it, but why not aim for both?

Next, the kids showed off their skills as food detectives, saying "whole" or "processed" as we checked off the ingredients in our recipes. Lesa talked through the steps in making a puree and what makes it a bisque (traditionally, crustaceans; now, cream), and then talked about what kind of fats to put in a fry pan. She introduced the kids to oil smoke points, an important lesson for the beginning cook.

"If it burns so easily, why do we use butter?" she asked the class.

"Because everything's better with butter!" was the quick response. Fortunately you can get the flavor of butter with the higher smoke point of canola (or sunflower, or grapeseed) oil by combining the two.

After a quick demo on how to curl ones fingers away from the blade ("obey the law, use the claw"), we divided the class into teams, pairing those who were confident with their dicing skills with those who wanted practice. Unfortunately, our class knives, recently purchased on the cheap at Ross Dress For Less, were not adequate to the task, causing a lot of frustration. Good knives are the best investment any cook, or class, should make, and I hope we can make them happen soon. Meanwhile, we're on a tight budget.

Lesa showed us the two parts to a celery plant, the stalk and the root (also called celeriac) and demonstrated how to cube the spherical root in order to stabilize it, to better cut neat batons, or sticks. She tossed the batons with lemon juice (reminding the kids of their vocabulary word acidulate), sprinkled them with cumin, and set them out for snacking. Yum. Ugly, but delicious.

One team gathered at the stove to cook the mirepoix, while another opened cans of tomatoes, a third made a chiffonade of basil, and a fourth started on the croutons. (I was eager to see how the kids liked the croutons, which to my mind are so different from the packaged variety they deserve a different name.) With only one serrated knife in the block, it took a while, but before long the boules of bread became rough cubes and were tossed with oil and herbs before going in the oven.

"What can I do now?" said one student after the next. I'm always impressed by how well the students ask for direction and take direction. Without complaint, they cleaned up the workspace and gathered around to watch Lesa make salad dressing.

We've been mentioning ratios for several weeks, but the kids had not yet made salad dressing. (Michael Ruhlman's Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Cooking is one of my favorite food books. Familiarity with ratios, whether or not they are called that, is the key to gaining confidence and versatility in the kitchen. Doesn't everyone want to be able to whip up something, without a recipe, and make it taste sensational?)

Using our state-of-the-art equipment (vintage Osterizer), Lesa demonstrated how fat and acid molecules repel each other like "fighting cousins" and can be forced to "get along" by blending or whisking until the acid is suspended in the oil. She used the standard 3:1, or three parts oil to one part vinegar, but emphasized that ratios like all rules were made to be broken. Taste, taste, taste!

The salad dressed, the croutons toasted, an immersion blender (brought from home) was employed to puree the soup, and soon everything was ready for serving.  The kids were encouraged to try the croutons -- golden, crispy and warm -- in either their soup or salad, and they did not waste any time doing both. Thanks was given, and a long silence ensued. A very pleasurable silence: the sound of good food being savored.

Seeing that there was enough soup, Lesa, Mary, and I sat down with the kids (a first!) and enjoyed a bowl.

Michael Pollan recently said:
The meal is a really important human institution, and we’re in the process of undermining it, because of our food marketing and because of our lifestyles. And a lot is lost . . . the family meal is the nursery of democracy. I really do think we literally civilize our children at the table. That’s where they learn to take turns and to share and to argue; all these kind of proto-democratic, small d democratic skills, or small r republican skills, are acquired at the table.
I thought about this as we sat and talked with the kids right past the opportunity to involve them in cleanup. It seemed more important to practice the skill of conversation than KP, and with Mary staying on to help, I could afford to say "let the dishes wait." Soon enough, we adults could also hang up our aprons, turn out the lights, and go home to our families, with that satisfying glow of time well spent. There's probably a French word for that.



Tomato-Basil Bisque with Croutons

Adapted from a recipe by Dianne Rossen-Worthington for Food and Wine. Serves 4-6.


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon high heat oil like canola or sunflower
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 large can (28 ounce size) chopped fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Croutons for topping (recipe follows)


  1. Heat a 10-12” satoir or rondeau over medium-high heat for about 60 seconds without anything in it. Turn the heat down to medium. Melt butter and oil together until it begins to shimmer. Add the onion and celery and stir well with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon. Cook until it becomes fragrant and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and let it heat through for another minute. Turn the heat down to low and stir in the flour. When the vegetables are well coated with the flour, add broth and tomatoes. Turn the heat up to high and add the Italian seasoning, tomato paste, sugar and bay leaves. Stir well to combine and bring to a boil. Turn heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove bay leaves.
  2. With an immersion blender or in a heatproof food processor, blend the soup until it is uniformly smooth. (Take care with this step, the soup is splashy!). Pour the soup back into the satoir or rondeau and stir in cream until well blended. Follow with basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper (and sometimes, a pinch of sugar). Top with croutons.



  • 2 Bolo or other rustic-style rolls (about 4 x 4”), halved through the center and cut into squares
  • ½ cup high heat oil such as canola, rice bran or sunflower
  • 2 teaspoons each of pepper, parsley flakes, paprika
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • A few pinches freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix the oil and seasonings together. Taste for salt and flavor before proceeding, adjust if necessary, then toss with bread cubes.
  2. Place the cubes on a high-sided baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Bake at 375 degrees for 7 minutes, turning once for even browning.
  3. Serve immediately or let cool before serving.

Greens with Mustard Vinaigrette

From Lesa Sullivan of Lesa Cooks. Serves 4-6


  •  5 ounces (about 4 cups) salad greens rinsed and well dried
  •  1 tablespoon lemon juice
  •  3 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  •  1 tablespoon Dijon or stone ground mustard
  •  2 teaspoons honey
  •  ¼ teaspoon salt
  •  1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  •  1 small garlic clove, crushed and finely chopped
  •  ¼ cup very good olive oil mixed with about ½ cup mildly flavored oil, such canola (3/4 cup total)
  •  1-1/4 teaspoon fresh herbs, minced (optional)


  • Arrange a damp towel laid flat under a bowl and tucked around its sides to prevent the bowl from moving. Combine lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, honey, salt, pepper and garlic with a whisk. When combined, continue whisking steadily.
  • Add oil by starting with a drop of it and whisking very thoroughly after adding it. (This can be done most easily with either a liquid measuring cup or a squeeze bottle. Do not stop whisking. Continue with two or three more drops and continue whisking. Do this once more, and then drizzle in with a slow and steady stream. The dressing will begin to thicken once the drizzling has started. This can also be done in a food processor or blender fitted with a metal blade: place everything but the oil and optional herbs in the container and pulse once or twice. Then, with the blade running, add oil as directed above.
  • Once combined, stir in optional herbs. Add half of the dressing to greens immediately before serving and toss well. Taste for flavoring and add more if desired.