A few weeks ago I went to visit some pigs out at Well Fed Farms. They were happy, handsome pigs, rooting up grasses on the fertile Skagit flats and being fed with apple pressings.
A couple of weeks later we got the call from Silvana Meats, and we picked up half a pig’s worth of fresh pork, neatly packed for the freezer. The smoked meats will be ready later (we’re very excited about bacon).
My mother has, in the last year, gotten sort of obsessed with arugula pizza, and it’s gradually infected us as well. Tutta Bella makes a particularly good one, which we had recently on a day when my parents and I converged on Seattle. A very simple pizza, it was topped only with prosciutto, a bit of tomato and cheese, with fresh arugula leaves added after cooking so they stayed fresh. When Jon and I stopped by the Dunbar Gardens farmstand last week, that pizza being fresh in my mind, a huge bunch of fresh arugula called out to me and demanded to be made into dinner.
I had been thinking in terms of putting the prosciutto on the pizza before baking it, then adding the greens partway through. But I noticed over on Epicurious that another option is to bake the pizza with nothing but cheese, then add the prosciutto and greens after it comes out of the oven. We tried it, and it was very successful – instead of crisping up, the prosciutto melts softly into the hot cheese, and the arugula perches on top, wilting only slightly where it touches. A little awkward to eat, perhaps, but you can always use a fork to snatch extra leaves off the plate. We ate the leftovers for breakfast the next morning with…yup…a fried egg. Fantastic.
We finally got out to Samish Island last week to check out a new addition to the local food scene, Golden Distillery. We had just stocked up on bread, cheese and salami in Edison and were heading for Taylor Shellfish in preparation for Christmas Eve dinner, so it made for an easy (and scenic) detour.
It’s a small operation, and the owners are happy to give you a tour of the premises. They grind, brew, distill and age all their ingredients on site, using entirely Washington-grown grain and fruit.
We met the distillery dogs, who take their job as greeters very seriously. And we tasted our way through the current lineup, which includes single-malt whiskey, several brandies and a white barley whiskey called White Gold. My favorites were the White Gold, which had a clean flavor and light burn, and the Cabernet brandy, which was just a nice smooth brandy, very easy to sip.
The apple brandy, which is made from locally grown Jonagolds, has a very different flavor from most apple spirits – instead of an overall essence-of-apples effect, it really does taste of Jonagolds. Interesting. The raspberry brandy is distilled from Pasek Cellars raspberry wine, something we used to like a lot but have lost our taste for. I gather it’s popular with many women customers, but not really my thing.
Over all, I think they’re doing some nice work. And it’s a good excuse to go driving out to Samish Island.
Our friend Katharine, who seems to be determined to keep us in rabbits, tracked down a source for local, farm-raised bunnies and brought us one. This one, unlike the one we braised last week (which she shot in her garden), was a tender young thing and nicely fat, which opened up the cooking possibilities considerably. I decided to follow my friend Laura’s suggestion and fry it like chicken. I found a recipe for Buttermilk Fried Rabbit on the site Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook, and given that I’ve never even fried chicken before, I thought this came out very well.
I really don’t know why Americans don’t eat rabbit. There’s definitely a factor of “oh, it’s too CUTE to eat” which is part of why we don’t eat much lamb as a nation, either. But it’s really hard to find rabbit in grocery stores – we asked once at our usual market and I think they could special order it frozen for us if we gave them enough notice, and it cost an arm and a leg. Weird.
So when a friend of ours, a local farmer, asked if we wanted to take one of the rabbits she’s been shooting to keep them out of her vegetables, we said Definitely. Even before we received the rabbit, I started looking through my British and Mediterranean cookbooks for possible recipes. We haven’t had much experience cooking wild game of any sort, so I wanted to get a feel for the most common treatments. Rabbit isn’t a strongly gamey meat, but it’s still liable to be stronger-tasting than, say, a farm-raised chicken, and the meat is very dense and low in fat, so it requires some care in preparation.
Why are so many foods marketed to kids made of plastic faux-food crap, anyway? Walking by the “lunchables” section of the supermarket makes me queasy. Some kids never get to find out what real food looks or tastes like, which irritates the heck out of me.
I recently invented this soup, and its become one of our favorites – as it turns out, really just a version of pasta e fagioli (Italian for noodles and beans, also known as pasta fazool). It also happens to be one of the easiest soups I’ve ever made, with the exception of the kind that involve opening a can or two. The first time I made it with freshly shelled borlotti beans from Colony Creek Farm (which were incredible), and the second time I used some locally grown, cupboard-aged Calypso beans (like little Yin-Yangs) that had taken up embarrassing residence in my pantry. Good thing dried beans don’t go bad very quickly.
Last weekend we were delighted to have the chance to visit Martiny Suffolks, the farm from whence comes the lamb we’ve been eating all summer. As part of the Skagit Festival of Family Farms, many small farms up and down the valley opened to the public for the day, including great places like Taylor Shellfish, Golden Glen Creamery, and Gordon Skagit Farm (to see the festivities at Gordon’s, check out this post at Willow Basketmaker). There were all sorts of activities, but we were there for the free samples and to give a few sheep noses some scritches.
We probably would never have ended up as customers if Linda Martiny (who owns the farm along with Mike Donnelly) hadn’t decided to try running a booth at the Mount Vernon Farmer’s Market this year. We saw the sign for local lamb on the first day and made a beeline, immediately buying a selection of chops and ground meat. We ended up buying half a lamb, and I suspect it will only be the first of many.
Just a reminder to anyone in the general neighborhood: this weekend is the Skagit Valley Festival of Family Farms, when many of the local small farms open their gates to visitors and feature tours, activities and goodies for the general public. If you want to visit a working farm or see where your food is coming from, now’s your chance. There will be hayrides and corn mazes and all kinds of fun stuff. Make a day of it!
The list of participating farms can be found here.
This was a good pizza.
It evolved naturally, inspired more or less equally by our usual Middle Eastern Lamb Pizza, the cover of the latest Food & Wine, and a recipe in Tessa Kiros’ book Falling Cloudberries. I knew I wanted to try a pizza with a leek-based sauce (I’m on a leek kick right now), but I wanted spiced lamb on it as well. In the end, it wasn’t quite like any of the source recipes, becoming something quite perfect all on its own: a melange of braised leeks tossed with hot pepper and tamarind-spiced lamb, layered with mozzarella and adorned with small ripe tomatoes, all resting on a chewy part-whole-wheat crust.
Savory and wonderful as the pizza was, there was something that made me stop mid-chew and stare at my plate for a minute. I realized that I knew where everything on that pizza had come from! Leeks and gorgeous fiery red peppers from Hedlin Farms in La Conner, lamb from Linda Martiny, local mozzarella, Shepherd’s Grain Stone-Buhr flour, salad (with flowers sprinkled in it) from Frog’s Song, and tiny tomatoes from our deck.
The only products I couldn’t put a face to were the salt, yeast and olive oil (well, okay, and the tamarind and cinnamon). I think that’s pretty cool.
Plus it was an incredible pizza.