Walnuts Forever

This fall we have been obsessed with walnuts. Our trees were very productive. Rick and I and several groups of friends picked up more then 300 pounds of walnuts. Thank you walnut trees and a big GRATEFUL to everyone who shared in the joy of the harvest.

walnuts, quillisascut, farm school, cookery
Walnuts under the tree at Quillisascut Farm

Many of the nuts fall clean from their outer husks, but as you can see in the photo some of them still cling to the thick green outer jacket and need to be liberated before storage.

Walnuts, Leeks, farmlife
Fall Harvest of Persian Walnuts and Leeks at Quillisascut Farm

The first step was getting them picked up, second was cracking them, which has been an on going theme for the last two months.

We used our Dave Built Nutcracker to get the shells open and picked through saving all the meats. It took about an hour for one person to liberate a pound of nutmeats. Having friends to share in the process lightened the task with lots of stories, conversation and laughter.

As of yesterday all of the main crop has been cracked giving us close to 100 pounds of walnuts out of their shells to cook with and share with the Quillisascut community!

All along we have been eating them, raw, toasted, with cheese and experimenting with recipes. One of the easiest to make was walnut butter. Here is how I did it.

Walnut Butter
Fresh ground Walnut Butter at Quillisascut Farm

Walnut Butter Recipe:

Walnuts
Salt

Toast walnut meats in the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit, until they take on a slight golden toasty color. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. Let cool slightly. While still warm place in blender or food processor (the Vita-mix™ worked like a champion for this making a creamy silken butter, the food processor took a little longer and the resulting butter was a little grainier, but equally as delicious). Add salt blend and it’s ready to eat! I keep mine stored in a jar in the refrigerator to protect the fresh flavor. Iv’e used it as you would any nut butter on bread, and have also stirred it in salad dressing which is especially wonderful on a green salad with ripe pears! (We are enjoying organic Anjou and Bosc Pears from Cliffside Orchard)

Grateful harvest at Quillisascut Farm
Thank you, soil, earth worms, microbes, water, compost and walnut trees!

Harvesting Between the Rows

I am working on making peace with weeds, especially the edible ones. All of the weeds have an important job. Probably the most important is clothing the soil (soil doesn’t like to be naked)! Weeds move in to disturbed areas, like our open gardens, and set up camp.

This spring I have been playing with ways to cook and dress up pig weed (wild amaranth). It is a super easy plant to grow, it comes up everywhere without encouragement. It also pulls out of the ground without too much tugging, especially when it is young and the soil is loose, and in my garden there is an abundance of these plants!

Pigweed has so many great characteristics. It draws nutrients up from down deep in the soil, bringing nutrition to the plants that come up next. It shades the soil and helps keep it moist. It doesn’t seem to have pests, the leaf miners leave it alone, no worms on the leaves, no aphids, the deer don’t even seem to eat it.

Most important it is delicious. It tastes similar to spinach. I like it cooked better then raw, although the tiny seedlings can be used as micro greens!

The stems are my favorite part, especially when they get longer and fatter, but before they get tough. Pan-fried in a little olive oil and seasoned with salt, they were reminiscent of asparagus. Chopped stems can be steamed like green beans. But the bulk of the greens are wonderful quickly stir fried until bright green and tender, they taste fresh and retain a little crunchy texture, or braised until they soften into a creamy mouth full of joy.

Simply top with butter or olive oil, maybe a splash of vinegar. Serve them with a bit of sesame oil and soy sauce, or as I did last night, pour on a glaze of walnut oil and top with toasted walnuts.

You can dress it up with bacon or any pork product to add a layer of flavor. Our friend Roong said it is a familiar green from his home in Thailand, he braised some for us with a bit of bacon and onions. And when Gary Nabhan was here he cooked up the greens with some spices and used them to fill empanadas for dinner.

Yep, these weeds are turning in to one of my favorite garden foods, free, abundant, and delicious!

Food and Family Traditions

Most of us have family traditions that revolve around food, a special birthday meal or a unique dish that is served at Thanksgiving.  Some of us have a cultural connection to a cuisine like Italian, Middle Eastern or Asian, these are the foods that we share with family and the ingredients that tie us to a culture.

This July 16-19 we are excited to share with you the opportunity to learn a few of the cooking techniques that make up New Mexican cuisine. These include cooking with chile, corn and the most important ingredient; cooking together with family and friends. Bel Candelaria Harrison has written this blog post about some of her food connections. The beginning of a conversation that we will build upon during the July 16th through the19th workshop, A New Mexican Christmas in July.

Family and Food
TamaleFamilyW
Cooking in our large family was woven into our daily existence. Ten of us, eight siblings and Mom and Dad would often sit around the kitchen table to share various cooking chores. Whether the task at hand was shelling salted and roasted piñon (pine nuts) we had harvested earlier that day, and piling the shelled piñon into a single pile just for the sheer pleasure of stuffing all of them into our mouths at once, or processing chile, chopping garlic and onion, cleaning beans, making tortillas, or just having a cup of coffee, we were really quite rich. We were rich not because we were preparing an expensive meal, but rather, most often, a humble meal of beans, chile and tortillas. We were rich because we formed relationships together around our table as we laughed, talked, teased, argued, and sometimes cried. Almost every important event was discussed around the kitchen table. And, the food always tasted soooo good!TamaleNMW
Today, we relive that sense of family and togetherness every time we gather to share a meal. Friends and family gathering to prepare food and sitting down together to enjoy the results of our joined effort may sound overly simplistic but it is joyful to me, even more so when you have grown your own vegetables, or collected fresh eggs from your chicken coop. I can’t wait to cook with my sisters at Quillisascut Farm just for that reason.

Learning and Food
My personal food revelation included discovering Lora Lea and Rick, their farm and the idea of “slow food.” My husband and I have a garden for which he deserves full credit. My appreciation for garden fresh, organic, and sustainable food has grown along with my very first herb garden to our large garden today. My daughter now also has her own garden and chickens. Passing on a passion for good, healthy food is a blessing. The learning continues.

Memories and Food
Some of my first “food” memories are those with my father and brothers, from sardines, scallions and scrambled eggs, Mexican Pizza, refried beans at 2:00 in the morning to the surgical removal of the egg yolk from a fried egg. The sardines, scallions and scrambled eggs were dad’s creation and he made the best tortillas.CornHusksW The Mexican Pizza however, was nothing I recognized until years later as a counterfeit Italian Pizza. The Mexican Pizza was made of a tortilla, red chile and cheese. Refried beans, well, you add bacon drippings to anything and it is absolutely fabulous! My brother could get anyone to do anything with just a smile like getting me up at 2:00 in the morning to make refried beans. He once removed the egg yolk from a fried egg with a table knife and a fork (I mean no egg white on the yolk at all and egg yolk unbroken) and transferred it on to a piece of tortilla in the shape of a scoop. He proceeded to eat the entire thing with laughing, dark brown eyes wide open!

Today, my sisters and I continue to make memories with food. We love to get together with friends and family to cook, laugh, talk and share whether it is a birthday, a holiday, or just dinner.

Come to Quillisascut for A New Mexican Christmas in July where we will learn, laugh, talk and share with the Candelaria Sisters!

Becky Selengut

Chef Becky Selengut, author of the sustainable seafood cookbook Good Fish, founder of Seasonalcornucopia.com and columnist for Edible Seattle Magazine, attended a Quillisascut Farm Culinary 101 workshop in 2004 when she worked at The Herbfarm Restaurant.

The Herbfarm is widely known for cooking with fresh from the garden produce so what was your motivation for attending a Q workshop?

While it’s one thing to be able to pick fresh produce from a farm garden to use in that night’s service, it’s something entirely beyond to play real farmer for a week. In the course of a week at Quillisascut, I killed a chicken, butchered a lamb, milked goats, made cheese, planted a row of garlic, harvested Italian plums and ‘put them up’ by dehydrating them and was immersed in a mind-altering introduction to where real food comes from.

At what stage of your career were you when you attended Q?

I was a line cook at the Herbfarm and it was nearing the end of my restaurant career. I worked in restaurants to get experience, knowing that I never wanted to run or own one. It was my week at Quillisascut that helped me realize where I wanted my career to go. Immediately after leaving the farm I started work on the seasonal foods website Seasonalcornucopia.com. The website was designed to help cooks learn about the seasons for all the many wonderful ingredients we have in the Pacific Northwest and when, approximately, they come in and out of season.

What are some of the interesting experiences or jobs you have had since your visit to Quilli?

Since 2004, I’ve cheffed on a boat heading up the Inside Passage and taught classes on sustainable seafood on the boat and in small towns in Alaska. I’ve had 2 sustainability cookbooks published and many freelance articles on local ingredients and I’m working on a new book right now on mushrooms. Each spring I lead foraging tours on Vashon Island.

What is happening in your life today that gets you excited, or motivates you?

Completely unrelated to sustainability issues, but perhaps contributing to my own sustainability, I’m pursuing a new avenue in my career and started a comedy podcast with Matthew Amster-Burton called Closed for Logging. It’s definitely NSFW. I’m also writing a humor column for Edible Seattle Magazine called “Back of the House”.

Share with us the changes in your life related to a more sustainable future.

Great question — recently we sold one of our cars and I’ve joined Car2go, a SmartCar car-sharing program. I’ve started walking more and using public transportation and this is a big change in my life and I love it, actually.

Becky Selengut
chef, instructor, author of Good Fish
becky@cornucopiacuisine.com
www.cornucopiacuisine.com
206-948-1595

Cooking words. Writing food. Drinking tequila.
www.chefreinvented.com
@ChefReinvented on twitter
www.goodfishbook.com

Mozzarella

Making mozzarella while making friends.

My friend Evelyn and I had been talking about getting together and making mozzarella for months, and it finally happened!

She was struggling with getting her stretchy cheese technique together ever since reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal Vegetable Miracle.

Our goats are not giving any milk right now so Evelyn picked up some Spokane Family Farms whole non-homogenized cows milk, brought it out to Q farm and we got to work. Or maybe we should call it play, there is something joyful about stretching mozzarella and getting to eat it the same day.

CurdWhey

If you want to try out the recipe that Evelyn and I used you can find it here thanks to Jessica Dally. We used two gallons of milk and the cheese turned out fantastic.

One of the tricks in making any type of cheese is being gentle with the curds. It is tempting to over work them at the time of stretching, so be quick, stretch them into the size of ball you wish and drop them in ice cold water.

Evelyn is planning on using her cheese in a special recipe that calls for mozzarella and eggplant. I think we will probably eat ours sliced and topped with Kalamata olives, salt and a drizzle of olive oil.

Or do do you say Calamata? Either way let me know how this Mozzarella recipe works for you.