Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Recipe: Potato Pancakes

I love fall produce. Winter squash, sweet potatoes, turnips, you name it, I love it. It's great time of year to get into wholesome, tasty comfort food as the weather gets cooler and more and more of the veggies you find at the market come from underground.

One of my favorite of these fall veggies is your basic potato. I could dedicate a whole month, nay, a whole year to great ways to prepare potatoes that involve almost entirely local ingredients. The below recipe we made one night after a long day of hiking Crowder's Mountain and it was super easy, delicious and filling while being vegetarian and almost totally local.

For this recipe we used a basic white potato but I bet it would be really interesting and different to try with sweet potatoes (though you might want to peel them first) or even turnips or squash. You can get potatoes from Fork In It, onions from Lomax Incubator Farm, egg from Windy Hill and even the oil you can get from Ohh-lio Express, all vendors from the Atherton Market which is now open from 11 to 7 on Wednesdays as well as Tuesday's and Saturdays. 

Potato Pancakes (v, LPO)
2 large potatoes
1/2 onion, minced
1 egg
1 tablespoon total of celery salt and seasoning salt
Oil of your choice
  1. Shred potato with a cheese grater
  2. Mix all in a bowl then make 2 inch balls
  3. Heat oil in fry pan and put 1 or 2 balls in and flatten with a spatula so they are about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick
  4. Heat on both sides till brownish
  5. Place on paper towels to let oil run off

We ate them with Lusty Monk mustard from Simply Local and a fried egg but do what you want with them!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Review: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell et al

My cousin is a physician who practiced for many years in rural New Mexico and when he learned that I started writing about food, he suggested I pick up Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s The ChinaStudy. I should have known immediately how influential this book is by the waiting list at the library alone; when I first requested the book, I was number 138 in line to receive it.  Finally it came in late September and wow, was it worth the wait.

I started drafting this post when I was about half way through the book so I could note which points Dr. Campbell makes that I wanted to highlight and which statistics were especially interesting. When I finished the book, though, I realized that just quoting statistics and numbers for you wouldn’t do his work justice. What The China Study represents is not just a meta analysis of literally hundreds of nutrition studies but a revolution in how we should think about food. I’ve read many books about nutrition lately that range from discussing where our food comes from, how much energy it takes to produce it, and the impact on the environment of our diets but what Dr. Campbell does is recount evidence of how a certain diet can reverse diabetes, cancer, obesity, autoimmune diseases and so much more.

It sounds incredible, right? But the only incredible thing to me is that I didn’t know about this before reading the book. A whole-foods, plant-based diet, says Dr. Campbell, can lower cholesterol, cure heart disease and reduce heart events like angina, stroke, heart attacks, and on and on. Study after study show that cutting out animal proteins (meat as well as dairy and eggs) can drastically change your health and longevity.

I said I wasn’t going to recount statistics to you but I lied – some of them are just too important:
  • High animal fat diets are closely correlated with a high incidence of cancer
  • The whole-foods, plant-based diet is as or, in some studies, drastically more effective in preventing future heart events in heart disease sufferers than surgery and expensive medications
  • Those that follow this diet are less than half as likely to develop Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes
  • A study of obese individuals found that they could lose, on average, 5.5% of their body weight after only three weeks eating as many calories as they want but only whole and plant-based foods
  • Cow milk consumption has been closely tied to multiple sclerosis incidence
And these are just the ones I remembered off the top of my head because the facts go on and on.

This is usually where, when I write book reviews, I tie back what I’ve read to eating locally. Though that can be easily done here, I’m going to leave that up to the reader because the book is so much more than that. I intend to buy copies for all my family and friends for the holidays because what Dr. Campbell has to say is just that important. No other book I’ve picked up since starting this food adventure has affected my way of thinking about what I eat more than this work so go out and get a copy (or, better yet, use your local library!).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Recipe: Ham Steak with Jalapeno Glaze

Anyone who reads this blog often knows I love jalapenos. Guacamole (I know, not at all local), salads, or really anything that’s a little bland can be improve by these tiny bundles of hotness. Unfortunately, I can’t touch raw jalapenos because my skin is hypersensitive to the juices, especially the seeds, so either my boyfriend has to cut them or I have to find gloves or other protection.

The good news is that they’re totally worth it and in season for most of the year because of how easy it is to grow them in a greenhouse or inside. Houston Farms, Fork In It, and the Lomax Incubator Farm have all had some sort of jalapeno throughout the summer and into the fall and I’ve bought a lot of them. On a recent weeknight, I realized I had two left over from other cooking adventures without much of a plan for them so it was suggested that I try a jalapeno glaze for pork which sounded amazing.

The cut of pork that I had in the freezer is called a ham steak. Ham steak is not the most popular or most common cut of pork but I use it a lot because it’s relatively lean and inexpensive. The steak comes from just below the shoulder and usually includes a round arm bone. Ham steaks vary in size but Windy Hill Farm’s are about 6 inches wide by 10 or 12 inches long so there’s a significant amount of meat there.  I was able to get four servings easily out of the medium size steak I purchased. The ingredients are pretty minimal: the honey came from Cloister Honey and the butter from Simply Local.

Ham Steak with Honey Jalapeno Glaze (LPO)
1 medium or large ham steak
2 jalapenos, diced
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons sugar (brown or white)
1 tablespoon butter

  1. Combine honey, butter, sugar and jalapenos in a large skillet. Heat covered on medium-low 5-10 minutes or until you can smell the jalapenos when you lift the lid.
  2. Add ham steak and cover. Simmer on medium-high heat for 10 minutes on each side until cooked through.
  3. Serve hot (with jalapenos still attached for extra heat).

I served this with wax peppers from a Know Your Farms CSA box and zucchini from Houston Farms sautéed for 10-15 minutes in the drippings from the ham steak skillet.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Emily Maass on Local Food in ALASKA! Part 2

Hello again from Alaska! Summer and fall may be prime fishing months, but colder weather means hunting season.

Yes, hunting. Vegetarians may want to avert their eyes, but for those of us who eat meat, hunting is a reality we have to acknowledge. No matter how free range, organic, or humanely your hamburger was raised, it was still a living creature at one time and somebody had to kill it so you could eat it.

OK, moving forward. Thousands of people travel to Alaska every year to hunt big game like moose, caribou, bear, and dall sheep. Locals hunt too, but they tend to hunt for food first and trophy second. Moose and caribou (aka wild reindeer) are most widely prized kills. One moose can provide all the red meat your family needs for an entire year!  The best part is that when a hunter has their kill processed they get to pick how the meat is divided and seasoned. How many pounds of ground meat? Steaks? Chops? Roasts? Breakfast links? Chorizo? Polish?

Nobody in my house hunts, but we only eat red meat sparingly so we are content with relying on gifts of game meat. I say gifts because game meat is so “local” that you can’t even buy it. You have to kill it yourself or receive it as a gift. Hunting out of season or selling game meat or game trophies are criminally punishable offenses.

Fortunately we have lovely, generous friends who often share their bounty with us. This summer we bought our first house, so some friends gave us a couple pounds of moose sausage as a house warming gift.

Yep, moose sausage. The best hotdog you’ll ever eat. It’s lean, tasty and local.

Moose sausage veggie scramble is a delicious and super easy way to use game meat sausage and whatever vegetables you have on hand. Just cut up the sausage and a mix of any veggies you have on hand. Season with salt and pepper. Throw the sausage in a pan to render the fat, then throw in the veggies and let it all cook down together. So simple, so tasty!

There’s not really a recipe for moose hotdogs, you just defrost the sausage and throw it on the grill. We use whole grain hotdog buns with the usual hotdog toppings. Moose hotdogs are particularly good with grilled vegetables, baked beans or baked french fries.

Unfortunately for most of Sarah’s readers, moose hotdogs will not likely be on your plates anytime soon. However, if you visit Alaska and make some friends, maybe they’ll have you over for dinner and serve you some moose chili, spaghetti with moose meat sauce, or a good ole moose polish. If all else fails, just go to one of our local diners or street vendors and order up a reindeer sausage on a bun or on the side of an egg breakfast. It’s the next best thing.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Emily Maass on Local Food in ALASKA! Part 1

Life in Alaska is a little bit different from the rest of the country. First of all, we are pretty isolated up here and most towns are not accessible by road. Even though I live in Anchorage, which is a real city with most of the creature comforts of any other American city, the goods shipped here are sold at noticeably higher prices. Also, Alaska is cold. We don’t get as much snow as Buffalo, NY (my former stomping grounds) but the snow we get sticks around a lot longer and our average lows are much lower. It’s also dark 18-20 hours per day in the dead of winter and light 18-20 hours per day during the summer. Basically, this is a state of extremes.

What does this add up to? Well, you might think this means that Alaska is a food desert, but this couldn’t be less accurate. It’s just that what we consider to be “food” and “local” is a little different. More extreme, if you will. 

Our growing season is short but intense. Crops, flowers, and even the grass under our feet flourish under three months of warm, sunny skies. Likewise, Alaska farmers market seasons are short but intense. The markets are small, usually with 10 or so produce vendors, one or two baked goods vendors and a lot of vendors selling other local goods like fireweed honey, jams, and crafts. The produce vendors typically sell the items that grow best in this climate including root vegetables, squash, cabbage, etc. And do they ever grow! It’s not uncommon to buy a zucchini the size of my lower leg for $4. Which brings me to prices: they’re really good! Alaskan farmers market prices are competitive with the grocery stores, plus the products are local, sustainable and delicious!

While farmer’s from the Matanuska-Sustina Valley north of Anchorage harvest our produce and local businesses bake our breads, individual Alaskans are tasked with harvesting their own protein sources. That’s right, hunting and fishing (check back on Thursday for my post on hunting).

I didn’t get to do my own fishing this year, but it’s common for Alaskans to spend most summer and autumn days fishing the rivers for various salmon species. On weekends folks drive to the Kenai Penninsula to take a boat out in the sound to fish for halibut, which sometimes weigh as much as 300 pounds! A dedicated angler can easily catch enough fish in a season to stock a freezer with enough wild-caught fish to last the year.

The salmon in my freezer was a house-warming gift from friends at work. I started making this dish in the summer of 2010 when I was working for my grandparents’ organic farm in Washington State and selling their wares at Seattle area markets. My grandparents grow soft fruit (apricots, peaches, plums, etc) and make a variety of low sugar fruit and herb products from their crops. Because market workers tend to trade their wares, I found myself experimenting with the ingredients I was given on a regular basis. This recipe is the result of an experiment that went really well.

Apricot Salmon and Grilled Veggies
1/2 pound fresh or thawed salmon per person
Apricot syrup (preferably a low sugar syrup)
2 medium squash (yellow or zucchini) or any combination of squash, root vegetables or greens (beets, chard, or potatoes)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

  1. Spray a large sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray or drizzle a smidge of olive oil and spread it around.
  2. Place the salmon skin down on the foil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Drizzle a generous amount of apricot syrup on the salmon.
  4. Wrap the foil around the salmon, making sure it’s secure so that the syrup doesn’t escape through the corners. Place the salmon in the fridge to marinate for 45 minutes.
  5. Clean and coarsely chop your veggies. Salt and pepper to taste or add your favorite seasoning. Sauté in a pan with olive oil.
  6. When the salmon is ready, you can cook it on a barbeque grill or a stovetop.
  7. To grill: on high heat, place the entire foil package on the grill. Close the lid and check the fish after 10 minutes. It’s done with the center meat is flaky and a lighter pink.
  8. Using the stovetop: spray a frying pan or skillet with cooking oil. Place the salmon skin down and cook it covered on med/high heat until the center meat is flaky and a lighter pink.  This method may cause the fish to dry out a bit more, so keep an eye on it.
 That’s it! A very simple recipe that is delicious, healthy, sustainable and local.

Emily Maass is an attorney who lives Anchorage, Alaska, and clerks for the Superior Court in September.