Katrina Blair author of The Wild Wisdom of Weeds at Reed College for free & open-to-the-public event this Thursday

November 10th, 2014

I'm really looking forward to the years to come with this book. Great wild edible reference by Katrina Blair with an intro. by my friend and food hero Sandor Ellix Katz.

A fine fellow in my life called me a hedonist in a sweet and loving way this weekend — it was my birthday weekend after all — and I agreed wholeheartedly before adding that I do well by my happiness-above-all-else and pleasure-seeking ways because I genuinely love the natural, wild side of life in addition to my less wholesome proclivities.

When it comes to food and drink that means that I favor whole foods and quality ingredients, homegrown fruits and veggies, homemade ferments and most importantly here — wildcrafted foods. (I especially love wildcrafted Munchos. I forage these in this region primarily from Plaid Pantries.) I started foraging when I moved to Portland in 2002 and every year I seem to add a couple more foraging favorites.

Some things that I look forward to harvesting from the wild annually in the Pacific Northwest include morels and chanterelles, stinging nettles, dandelions, miner’s lettuce, sorrel, blackberries +++

I’m so lucky to have received an advanced copy of Katrina Blair’s book The Wild Wisdom of Weeds just out from Chelsea Green. My friend and food hero Sandor Ellix Katz wrote the intro. and I agree with him when he writes: “In our contemporary society, most people grow up with minimal connection to the natural world around us. Most of us can identify many more corporate logos than plants. Yet plants are incredibly important and without them we could not exist.”

Katrina’s book is a very personal, dig deep look at 13 of the world’s most common wild edible plants that includes all sorts of DIY projects and recipes (100+) for the plants including info. on fermenting, dehydrating, making oils from and sprouting these wild edibles: dandelion, mallow, purslane, plantain, thistle, amaranth, dock, mustard, grass, chickweed, clover, lambsquarter and knotweed. Half of these wild edibles are already my friends and the other half I want to become more acquainted with. I’m looking forward to using this book as my guide.

Katrina is in town this week for a fun, free and open to the public event at Reed College. Maybe I’ll see you there?

When: Thursday, November 13 from 4-6pm
Where: Meet at Eliot Hall Room 314 Reed College
What: Go for a wild plant walk with Katrina Blair, wild-foods advocate and author of the new book The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival. Return to the Aspen Utility Room for a presentation and wild green juice sampling.
This event is hosted by the Reed Outing Club

Yard Fresh Pt. 30

May 15th, 2014

My kitchen is being remodeled by my friends at St. Johns Design Build. Yeah, yeah, yeah!

I haven’t done one of these since last summer! Holy shit time flies. Lately I’ve been wishing that there were a way to expand time to fit more of the best of life in. I don’t necessarily want the days to be longer I just want to be writing, sailing, cooking, loving, swimming, travelling and on and on and on contemporaneously somehow/someway. So that each would be enjoyed fully but a different part of me would be present for each. I’ll go do some more drugs now. Sorry.

So, I’m getting my kitchen remodeled! Finally. My super talented friends at St. Johns Design Build (they don’t have a website yet but once they do I’ll shout it out here) — Brian McVay, Clarence Jacobs and Rude Graves — are kicking ass doing a complete overhaul. Things that I’m really looking forward to: the original fir floor being sanded and finished, my new-to-me kick-ass professional-style Dynasty gas stove, sweet-ass tiling by Rude, old bleachers made into beautiful new cabinets and drawers and shelves by Clarence, a bar, maple chopping block peninsula, paperstone counters and all sorts of other magic by Brian and crew. Life is sweet. I’ll put up some photos of the progress in the next several weeks.

In the meantime, near and dear friends in the neighborhood are happy because I’ve been using their kitchens more and I also have a funky little interim kitchen in the back of my house in the utility room with a hotpot, rice steamer and toaster. It works and it’s actually been fun to have some cooking restraints. It’s like camp cooking, boat cooking etc. — pushes you to be creative and work in new ways with what you’ve got.

It’s been a really fun spring so far and I hope you’ve been doing well too. I just finished writing the Tasty Brunch Book proposal with John (now it’s with our agent, next to the designer), I’m working on all sorts of food-plus projects at Hawthorne Books, working on a still secret book project, little here and there on my novel and Food Lover’s Guide to Portland 2.0 review copies go out NEXT WEEK and it publishes in three short months. Madness. In the very best sense of the word.

Here’s what I’ve been eating. What have you been cooking and eating?

Miso, bacon, fish sauce, broccolini spaghetti. Really good.

Mission Street Food's Braised Sausage with my friend Kalera's kraut, Reverend Nat's Hard Cider and house German sausage from Western Meat Market on Lombard.

Miso rice with homemade kimchi.

Rice cooker steamed Dover sole in homemade miso/ginger/lemon sauce with asparagus.

Nettle'ing with Jess. Made all kinds of dishes with them. Morel nettle risotto, sauces, tea yada yada. Love nettles.

My haul.

Found this huuuuuge morel in my backyard. Was too waterlogged and gone to eat but still had...

The last of the dehydrated/foraged ones from last spring. Have been making a lot of risottos with them. My friend Jess, different Jess, took these from the Mother's Day risotto I made for her and Rich with red-veined sorrel from the yard and my homemade plum wine. Tasty.

Racked and then...

Bottled the plum wine. 100 bottles this year from the Brooks plum tree in my front yard.

Also bottled last year's dandelion wine and started this year's. Make it every year with my friend Michelle and her daughter...

These guys!

Dinner becomes breakfast. Spag and eggs. One of my favorites.

Still cooking from the Toro cookbook. Forever and always. Toro's piperade and boquerones over pan-fried polenta.

For our first kitchen remodel meeting/party made a big batch of kimchi fried rice and it, of course, became breakfast the next day. So good.

Cook and eat something good tonight!

Yard Fresh Pt. 29
Yard Fresh Pt. 28
Yard Fresh Pt. 27
Yard Fresh Pt. 26
Yard Fresh Pt. 25
Yard Fresh Pt. 24
Yard Fresh Pt. 23
Yard Fresh Pt. 22
Yard Fresh Pt. 21
Yard Fresh Pt. 20
Yard Fresh Pt. 19
Yard Fresh Pt. 18
Yard Fresh Pt. 17
Yard Fresh Pt. 16
Yard Fresh Pt. 15
Yard Fresh Pt. 14
Yard Fresh Pt. 13
Yard Fresh Pt. 12
Yard Fresh Pt. 11
Yard Fresh Pt. 10
Yard Fresh Pt. 9
Yard Fresh Pt. 8
Yard Fresh Pt. 7
Yard Fresh Pt. 6
Yard Fresh Pt. 5
Yard Fresh Pt. 4
Yard Fresh Pt. 3
Yard Fresh Pt. 2
Yard Fresh Pt. 1

Homemade Fermented Food and Drink

July 25th, 2011

Hard cider bottling of the Newton pippin cider that I pressed with Nat West last winter. Really good this year -- much better than last's. The dandelion wine is bottled on the left...

Ever since I bought a copy of Sandor Ellix Katz’s Wild Fermentation shortly after moving to Portland I’ve been a food fermentation freak.

I love everything about home food fermentation. I love the DIY aspect of crafting foods that I love such as sauerkraut, wine, and miso. I love the time and patience involved in creating these foods and drinks — most ferments I make take anywhere from a few days to a year. I love the full flavor of food ferments — from pungent and sour to salty and spicy to sweet and effervescent. I love that fermented foods and drinks are inherently good for me because of the live micro-nutrients they contain. I love that I’m carrying on food traditions born well before refrigeration, artificial preservatives, and pasteurization. The list goes on and on.

In January 2009, I got to travel to Nashville to meet one of my heroes — Sandor Ellix Katz — and interview him for The Sun Magazine. In October of 2009, we got him to come out for the inaugural Portland Fermentation Festival that David Barber, George Winborn and I organized and continue to organize every year. The date is still TBD for this year’s and I’ll let you know soon when/where it will be.

For now, I’ve got a bunch of home food and drink ferments that I’ve been checking on, bottling and eating up lately to share with you here. This weekend I started a sour cherry wine with fruit collected from a neighbor’s tree. I’ll post about that soon.

I’ve got two batches of miso going right now that I started in November — soybean miso and red bean miso. Here’s what they’re looking like now after several months of fermenting…

I scraped the salt off the top of this red bean miso and it's looking pretty and already tasting DELICIOUS. Going to be patient though and let it ferment until fall. At least.

The soybean miso is looking and tasting great too. Did the same and scraped off the salt and mold, repacked with a nice layer of sea salt, covered and put back in the utility room till fall.

Yes, you have to be very generous with the salt so you don't get too much mold.

This year's three gallons of Brooks plum wine has finished fermenting and is now bottled. It's so good. It's tart and off-dry and tastes like a perfect plum. The alcoholic kind.

These petals and more went into this year's gallon of dandelion wine. We bottled last year's and it's delicious as always, a little more flowery this year too which is nice.

If you’ve never done any home food/drink fermentation I recommend starting with saurkraut or kimchi. They’re both quick and easy ferments that pack a lot of flavor. I can’t recommend Sandor Ellix Katz’s book Wild Fermentation enough. I use it all the time. Happy fermenting! Let me know what you make.

Vegan Iron Chef Ticket Giveaway!

June 27th, 2011

Last year's Vegan Iron Chef in Portland. Photo by Lucas DeShazer.

Unfortunately, I’m not going to be here for the second annual Vegan Iron Chef Competition this year — but if you are I’ve got a pair of tickets for one lucky commenter. Since last year’s event sold out quickly I’m doing this giveaway early so those who don’t win can go ahead and purchase tickets ($12 advance/$15 at door/$100 VIP tasting seats).

Comment below on the best vegan dish you’ve eaten out in Portland recently (or a vegan dish you’ve made at home recently if no restaurant dishes stand out) for a chance to win a pair of tickets.

From the press release:

Three chefs from the community’s favorite establishments will prepare dishes inspired by an unveiled secret ingredient for a panel of esteemed judges and a live audience, while the event is live-streamed to anticipated thousands.

The event will be co-hosted by bestselling cooking author Isa Chandra Moskowitz of The Post Punk Kitchen and local artist and zinester Nicole J. Georges.

Our chefs are Kitchen Dances’ Piper Dixon, Homegrown Smoker’s Jeff Ridabock, and Dovetail Bakery’s Morgan Grundstein-Helvey.

This year’s judges include Julie Hasson from Native Bowl and Everyday Dish, Aaron Adams from Portobello Vegan Trattoria, Grant Butler from The Oregonian, John Janulis from The Bye & Bye, and last year’s crowned Vegan Iron Chef, Quasu Asaase Yaa.

Live music, exhibitors, sampling, trivia, and raffle prizes round out this can’t-miss event.

Tickets ($12 in advance/$15 door; $100 VIP tasting seats) are available at VeganIronChef.org. Sponsorship opportunities available now.

Vegan Iron Chef is a nonprofit organization based in Portland, OR, with a mission of spreading the message of veganism by showcasing the art of vegan cuisine and celebrating community. Other cities are encouraged to join the Vegan Iron Chef network, hold their own competitions, and unite for regionals and finals in upcoming years.

Vegan Iron Chef Competition
Sunday, July 10th, Competition 5-7:30pm; after party until late
Event @ Refuge PDX

How to Forage for Nettles

May 3rd, 2011

Stinging nettle booty.

I love nettles. I even grow them in my yard. But the small patch that’s in the enter at your own risk section of my garden — raspberries and nettles — is really only good for a few scrambles a year. That’s not enough. I need to make big platters of nettle lasagna, dinners of nettle risotto, early spring nettle pesto. You get it.

We harvested A LOT of nettles recently and here’s my advice — gloves, scissors, bags and don’t bring the dog. The last part is difficult but please heed the warning. Ours whimpered for hours after because he stung his foot pads. Poor guy. We just kept soaking his feet in cold water and applying cortisone. You could tell it really hurt.

Don't forget your gloves...

Nettles as far as the eye can see.

On the positive side we made a lot of delicious things from our nettles and didn’t get hurt in the slightest. (Lots of risotto as you can see because we’ve been craving that with the cold, dark weather we’ve been having this spring.) Wear gloves when collecting and preparing nettles and remember that just a few minutes of cooking gets rid of the sting.

Golden beet and nettle risotto.

Nettle risoto finished with cream and asiago.

Sounds strange but this nettle tostada the next morning was awesome.

Hard Cider Pressing with Nat

December 27th, 2010

Nat sorting through one of the last Newtown Pippin apple bins.

In early December I got to help out a friend with the last cider press of the apple season. Our friend Nat West has been crafting his own cider and hard cider for a few years now from gleaned, traded and orchard picked local apples and this year was the biggest. He thinks his total apple haul this year clocks in at about 5,800 pounds, which translates to roughly 500 gallons of cider.

This year’s apples included a mix of Newtown Pippins, Lady, Jonagold, Kingston Black, Yarlington Mill, Brown’s Apple, Hereford Redstreak plus about 1,000 pounds of mixed varieties gleaned from various local spots. I helped out with the last of the Newtown Pippins — about 250-300 pounds.

The agreement was (and is with a lot of Nat’s friends) that in exchange for helping out for a shift of apple milling and pressing I’d get to take home a carboy of that day’s cider. I thought that sounded great and I was really happy to get to work with and learn more about Nat’s awesome set-up.

Basically, Nat mills his apples with a retrofitted garbage disposal and presses them with a hydraulic press in his garage. Apples are stored and rinsed in bins and buckets in the driveway and once the juice is pressed it’s kept in 55-gallon drums in the basement during fermentation and then stored largely in kegs. Nat lets his cider go anywhere from six to eight months.

Nat doesn’t sell his cider he just drinks it and trades with it. Really good stuff. Here are some photos…

Nat rinsing the apples before I put them through the apple mill aka retrofitted garbage disposal in the garage.

I filled bucket after bucket with apple pumace shown here. It oxidizes pretty quickly while in queue for the press.

Nat's awesome hydraulic cider press.

Hard cider fermenting in the basement in 55-gallon food grade barrel.

Most of Nat's cider goes directly into kegs but he bottles some for friends.

Read about my cherry wine here.

Ready about my plum wine here.

Read about my dandelion wine here.

Chanterelle Foraging

December 1st, 2010

We braved hail and lots of rain to get these suckers.

This fall was a record mushroom harvesting season here in the Pacific Northwest — chanterelles especially. I’d never been chanterelle picking until this year but I’ve gone on a lot of other mushroom hunts and I love it. I love being out in the woods without a trail to follow and that combined with the magic and mossy hunt of golden chanterelles makes for a perfect rainy weekend day with friends.

And rain, and even hail, it did a few weeks ago when went chanterelle picking. We got dumped on but warmed up in the car afterward with dark rum spiked hot apple cider and homemade bacon apricot cornbread muffins with maple buttercream frosting that our friend Teresa brought. She spoiled us. And as if that wasn’t enough we chased our snack with an early dinner at Tad’s Chicken ‘n Dumplings a.k.a. the chic dump.

I did a quick sort and clean of my mushrooms once I got home because even though I used scissors to harvest, leaving the mycelium intact and also leaving the muddy base behind, there was still (as there always is) a lot of dirt and needles to get rid of. After I cleaned the chanterelles I put them on a pan and warmed them dry in the oven.

We got a good amount from our spots but it wasn’t a huge haul. I think we each got 3-4 pounds. That’s what it felt like. I made two things with mine — a really good risotto and a penne pasta with chanterelle cream sauce. Both were delicious.

Here’s some more tasty chanterelle posts from local and afar food folks that I love:

The Portland Pickle
Good Stuff NW
Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

Chanterelle risotto with crispy fried sage leaves and bacony brussels sprouts.

Penne with chanterelle cream sauce and toasted hazelnuts.

I’ve Been a Miner for…Miner’s Lettuce!

March 22nd, 2010

Trimmed, bagged and perfectly wild miner's lettuce

I like taking my dog Rubin to my writing studio. It’s a small enough room that it feels like a den — more like a walk-in closet — and he usually curls up under my desk and keeps my feet warm. He’s a white malamute shepherd so he’s not small and only has a few places to get comfortable in the room. It’s nice having company while I write, research stories and projects, boil ramen in the hot pot, talk on Skype.

The best part of taking Rubin to work is that he gets me on a regular walk schedule. I love walks period but I’m more inclined to skip them when he’s not around. So at the end of last week — remember how sunny and beautiful it was? — I was at my studio and took Rubin on a mid-day walk. I was soaking up the sunshine and shaking off a little work stress when I came upon something extraordinary…

You see what I’m talking about above and below — the largest urban patch of miner’s lettuce I’ve ever laid eyes on! So large in fact I actually looked around to see if anyone else was onto it. There were a couple homeless guys tinkering with their tent fifty yards away but other then that it was just me and Rubin. Bounty!

I plucked a bit and ate it on the spot — first miner’s lettuce of the season! And then we carried on with our walk after deciding to make a pit stop there with a bag to harvest before heading home.

Miner's lettuce is unmistakable and it's one of my favorite wild edibles.

By the time quitting time came around I almost forgot about the miner’s lettuce but lucky for me my post-work brain kicked in and I stopped by the patch to snip enough for a big salad for a barbecue that night. I didn’t even come close to making a dent. The patch is so big that I could probably eat salads from it all summer. I plan to do just that in fact. For the miner’s lettuce salad last week I added butter lettuce and radishes along with mint, fennel and ribboned sorrel from the yard. I tossed it all with a homemade white miso, lime and olive oil vinaigrettte. Delicious.

I’m not telling you where my newfound miner’s lettuce patch is but if you’re looking for urban wild edibles now’s the time. I highly recommend that you check this open source website out too — Urban Edibles. I wrote about it in my book and there’s a ton of great PDX foraging info. there. If you need some schooling Wild Food Adventures is heading into another fantastic spring season of local foraging expeditions and workshops.

I found it here! Sea of miner's lettuce...

Yard Fresh

June 23rd, 2009

I buy plenty of farm fresh local food year round but my favorite time of the year for eating in Portland is the summer and early fall because so much of what’s on the plate is yard fresh — straight from our garden. Last year I expanded the vegetable garden to the front yard — before I just had beds and mounds in the back. The front yard up until then was mainly fruit trees, berries, herbs and perennial vegetables such as asparagus, artichokes and cardoons. This year I have tomatoes, tomatillos, basil, chiles, celery, pickling cucumbers and more in the front in addition to a whole bunch of veggies in the back.

In the last several weeks the garden has been very giving. Here’s a bit of what it’s offered and what I’ve made of the offerings…

I harvested this year's hard and softneck garlic last weekend and now it's curing in the utility room. Rubin eats just about anything -- in this case dirt.

I harvested this year's hard and softneck garlic last weekend and now it's curing in the utility room. Rubin eats just about anything -- in this case dirt.

These are some of the softnecks. I mulched them with straw this year and it really seemed to help with weeds and warmth. These are the biggest softnecks I've ever harvested.

These are some of the softnecks. I mulched them with straw this year and it really seemed to help with weeds and warmth. These are the biggest softnecks I've ever harvested.

A couple weeks ago I took this...

A couple weeks ago I took this...

And made this -- garlic scape pesto from the hardnecks finishing off  in the backyard.

And made this -- garlic scape pesto from the hardnecks finishing off in the backyard.

Gooseberries look like marbles.

Gooseberries look like marbles.

I made them into gooseberry chutney with mustard seeds and all kinds of curry spices.

I made them into gooseberry chutney with mustard seeds and all kinds of curry spices.

Dandelion salad with hot bacon vinaigrette and a side of canned tomato chile puree from last summer.

Dandelion salad with hot bacon vinaigrette and a side of canned tomato chile puree from last summer.

Vine to mouth sugar snap peas

Vine to mouth sugar snap peas

Butter lettuce, sorrel, mint, chive and chive flower salad with red wine vinaigrette and crumbled feta

Butter lettuce, sorrel, mint, chive and chive flower salad with red wine vinaigrette and crumbled feta

Caramelized onion spahetti with roasted hazelnuts, arugula and feta

Caramelized onion spaghetti with roasted hazelnuts, arugula and feta

Sorrel pesto with hazelnuts, parmesan and lots of olive oil

Sorrel pesto with hazelnuts, parmesan and lots of olive oil

Yes, I do eat meat and seafood too but other than what the cat drags in and we drag back out — every spring a couple unlucky starlings and usually a mouse or two — we aren’t producing any animal protein on our urban lot. I have half wondered about the slugs but will leave that culinary experiment for someone else to try.

Eat, drink and be hairy!

You can also check out:
Yard Fresh Pt. 2
Yard Fresh Pt. 3

Wild and Free: Another Wild Food Adventure with John Kallas, Dandelion Wine and more

May 5th, 2009
Dandelion petals: If you want yellow fingers but don't smoke...

Dandelion petals: If you want yellow fingers but don't smoke...

In the past few weeks I’ve done a lot of foraging. First I gathered dandelion petals with my friend and her daughter for this year’s batch of dandelion wine. If you want 3 gallons of dandelion wine you need 3 gallons of dandelion petals. That’s what we wanted but we settled with one gallon — which took the better part of an afternoon to collect. I wrote about last year’s dandelion wine for Imbibe.

Yes, those scissors are a little big but she insisted. At least it's not a sweat shop.

Yes, those scissors are a little big but she insisted. At least it's not a sweat shop.

Another wild food event this season was an informal gathering of all sorts of Portlanders — connected via food, work, friends — that I won’t share too much about since a story is currently in the works. I will show you a photo of a bit of the resulting food — 3 jars of delicious collective kraut. In our collective batches of vegetable ferments, amongst MANY ingredients, were backyard bull thistle, dandelion greens and black radish…

There are things in these jars that I'd never heard of until this spring

There are things in these jars that I'd never heard of until this spring

This past weekend I was lucky enough to attend another one of John Kallas’ Wild Food Adventures. Kallas is one of my favorite Portland food people because he often goes where no one else does in search of delicious wild foods growing all around us — urban, suburban and off the beaten path. This Sunday we went to Oxbow Park out in the Sandy River Gorge not far from Troutdale.

Eat me -- stinging nettles

Eat me -- stinging nettles

We were lucky that we didn’t get rained or hailed on as we hiked around sampling all sorts of wild spring greens including sheep sorrel, waterleaf, salmonberry stems (the inside of new growth stems tastes sweeter and juicier when peeled than fresh asparagus), miner’s lettuce, stinging nettles and much more. Well, we didn’t try the nettle but John did. He has a trick for plucking them with his bare hands and eating them on the spot without a sting….

Our fearless leader -- stinging nettle in hand

Our fearless leader John Kallas -- stinging nettle in hand

I haven’t been foraging for morels yet this spring even though one popped up in our backyard a few days ago! I hear it’s a later season for them this year so maybe there’s still hope. Happy foraging everyone.

Wild Food Adventures
John Kallas
***Most workshops still have openings but they fill up fast***