Monday, August 30, 2010

September = Reader Recipe Contest Month

I had great ambitions at the beginning of the summer. I was planning on decorating my cookbooks with post-it flags marking the best recipes that highlighted seasonal product, filling these blog pages with mouth watering photos of healthy, savory, awe-inspiring meals, coming home very week from the farmers market with my basket full of new and interesting produce.
But life got in the way and I found myself night after night looking for culinary inspiration that wasn't too be found. I was tired, distracted by other more pressing concerns, happy if my dinner included all the major food groups, much less actually was appetizing or attractive. I did bring home lots of market produce, but often found myself simply steaming or sauteing it with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt. Now don't get me wrong. I think simple is often underrated. I believe that you should actually be able to taste the flavor of the vegetable, not drown it in other overpowering sensations. But creativity and imagination is still a good thing.
My life is approaching normalcy again and I feel a pull back towards the kitchen. It might be the unseasonably cool weather that makes me think of spending Sunday afternoons making bread and soup and filling the windows with steam.
So this is where you, the reader, come in. I am looking for some new inspiration and have seen from past blog and Facebook posts that the people that shop at the Montavilla Farmers Market might very well be the best sort of advice. The month of September is being devoted to a customer challenge. Send me your favorite recipe, complete with enticing photograph and I will post it for all to enjoy. At the end of the month, we will put all of the entries into the running for a reader vote. The person submitting the most popular recipe will win a 2010 MFM t-shirt, men's or women's sizing from American Apparel.
In the meantime I'm going to head to the bookstore for a new cookbook for some nightly reading. If you're anything like me, you too enjoy curling up in bed with a cookbook dreaming up combinations of flavors. If you don't have a recipe to submit, send me suggestions of a great new cookbook to check out.
If you want to submit an entry, send an email to with the words "MFM September Recipe Contest" in the subject line. Make sure to include a photograph, the proper credit to a cookbook or magazine if appropriate, and enough instructions that the average cook can recreate your masterpiece. I will in turn post the entry to the blog and ask readers for the comments and reviews of the recipe. At the end of the month, we'll hold a vote and award the prize. The only defining feature is that the recipe should feature something seasonal and locally available at the farmers market.
I look forward to seeing what this challenge produces. Happy cooking!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Our Market is Green...

... and not just due to the local veggies.

In July we launched the Market Loaner Bag program. With your help, we're hoping to put an end to the "use-it-once" mentality by providing market bags to borrow if you've forgotten yours. The bags have been made from t-shirts that have been donated by the Market community and cleverly sewn by volunteers, including neighborhood home sewers and boutique Union Rose. The jersey t-shirt fabric produces a bag that is soft and a little bit stretchy, which hugs your purchases nicely.

The Market will have these unique bags on hand at the Info Booth (limited to availability) for market shoppers to borrow for shopping for produce & other market goods. The bags may be borrowed for the week & should be returned the next time you visit market, hopefully the following Sunday. Returning them promptly will ensure their availability at market for the season duration.

At the same time we have made a Free Guide on Produce Storage available, so that you won't be at a loss for how to store your produce if you bring it home in something other than disposable plastic bags.

This is not our first project focused on reduction of the disposable in favor of the durable. Our Durable Dish program to reduce disposable service ware launched in 2009. You can read more about it here on our blog.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vendor Profile: Deck Family Farm

Portland is in the midst of a grand love affair with meat. From restaurants like our own Country Cat, Beast, Simpatica, this celebration of the art of butchery has had many benefits to us, the consumer. I have a number of friends that were once vegetarians but now have ventured back into omnivore territory because of it is now easier than ever to find sources of meat that come with the knowledge that the animals had a happy life, they were fed real food and weren't amped up on hormones like they were a professional sports player. It starts with the first bite of good, quality, pasture raised meat that is flavorful and tender - often bacon is the gateway drug it seems. From there, it's just a taste of this stew, or a slice of this rare-cooked filet. I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with being a vegetarian, my almost-husband has been one since he was in college. All I'm saying is that it if you do eat meat, and haven't treated yourself to some "good meat" like Deck Family Farms offers at the market, you don't know what you are missing. The difference is noticeable.
And if you want to see where your meat comes from, Deck Family Farms receives visitors at their farm in Junction City, Oregon. (or see the picture in this post) Their website is also a good resource for recipes and the health benefits associated with grass-fed beef and milk.

1) What types of products do you specialize in?
Deck Family Farm specializes in pasture-raised protein products
including beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and eggs.

2) What are your biggest challenges in operating a farm? And what
makes it all worth it?
Our biggest challenge is competing on price against federally
subsidized, corporate industrial agriculture. Fortunately, our
products have superior flavor, are beneficial to the environment and
directly support our rural economy. This is what makes farming worth

3) What food policy issues do you think are critical to the future of
agriculture in Oregon?
Critical to establishing a healthy network of small farm protein
products is for the Oregon Department of Agriculture to establish a clear and consistent method for interpreting existing policies. Rules and policies are notcommunicated clearly and thus are interpreted in vastly different ways by Farmers Markets, grocery stores, and restaurants. This creates a climate of confusion and uncertainty amongst the growers. Certainly it makes further investment by producers more difficult.

4) What is your favorite food blog/web resource?
Dr. Mercola ( has some great information on all kinds of issues relating to personal health.

5) Do you have a favorite cookbook that you cook from?
Epicurious (

6) What food/agriculture related book, magazine or movie would you recommend?
Forget about the books, magazine, and movies. Most of them vastly oversimplify the complex agricultural food-system landscape. The best thing to do is visit the farms that are bringing food to you at the Farmers Market and see for yourself. Deck Family Farm welcomes visitors Monday through Saturday.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Vendor Profile: Kohlman's Soaps farm direct goat products

Goats might be one of those creatures that you either love or fear. You love them because they have an endearing way of giving you gentle headbutts and trotting comically across a field. Or you fear them because of a childhood petting zoo experience gone awry. But regardless, their milk is a wonderful thing. We at Montavilla are lucky because we have vendors that sell edible goat products (chevre) and those that sell things that make your skin soft and lovely like soaps and lotions. Just because you treat your insides well with organic fruits and veggies, doesn't mean you should neglect the side that we present to the world.
Oh, and don't forget about the farm fresh eggs that Bev sells as well....even if you haven't motivated to build that backyard chicken coop, you can still enjoy the taste of a fresh fried egg with its extra rich yellow yolk.

From Bev Garzon of Kohlman's Soaps
1) What types of products do you specialize in?

Goat milk soap, shampoo, lotion. Organic eggs.

2) What are your biggest challenges in operating a farm/business? And what makes it all worth it?

The longest term challenge have been the predators. Lastest is a bobcat that has nabbed four of our chickens. We have a guard llama, but bobcat climb trees. Other than that, we're most bothered by the rising costs of hay and grain feed.

What makes it all worthwhile is standing at the kitchen sink, washing dishes and having a great view of our little farm. I even love it when the chickens come marching into the house, straight to the cat food bowls. Gives me a chance to grab 'em and give them a kiss before I toss them outside - yet again.

3) What food policy issues do you think are critical to the future of agriculture in Oregon?

Right now for me, it's the fact that raw goat milk cannot be sold to humans in Oregon for consumption. Although it is the most widely consumed form of milk in the world, it cannot be purchased legally in Oregon for anything other than livestock feed and then only if purchased directly from the farm.

4) Why do you chose Montavilla Farmers Market to sell your products?

In the 90's, Montavilla, Mt. Tabor and Hawthorne were my stomping grounds. As soon as I found out Montavilla had their own farmers' market, I knew it was the place for not only me, but my products.

5) Do you have a favorite cookbook that you cook from?

The All Purpose Joy of Cooking (Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer/Becker). Not so much for the recipes, but for the basic facts of purchasing, cooking and preserving all sorts of food. It's Martha Stewart meets Julia Child meets Alton Brown. I have the paperback version and keep it all together with a big rubber band.

6) What food/agriculture related book, magazine or movie would you recommend?

Cooks, Illustrated. (magazine)
Chocolat (movie)
Botany of Desire (book)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Harvest Dinner menu revealed

This morning at the market, board member and Harvest Dinner organizer Beth Kluvers handed me a piece of paper that I've been waiting for with much anticipation for the past couple of weeks...the full menu for our annual gala event. And it does not disappoint. Read on and once you have grabbed a napkin to wipe the drool from your chin, hurry on over to our website and buy a ticket or a table. Seats are limited to 100 people. And once word gets out about the menu with the 5 courses and the 5 biodynamic wines, there are no guarantees that they won't fly out the door.

And if you are vegan or vegetarian, don't worry. We have definitely not forgotten you. Piper of Kitchen Dances will be preparing vegan entrees that will match and maybe even exceed those of your carnivorous tablemates. And word has it that Pastry Girl will be preparing vegan and possibly even gluten free desserts as well. Once we have details on those offerings, as well as the specific wine pairings, we will make those available here in the blog and in our weekly e-newsletter.

How's this for a little build up of anticipation?

Garden roll with tofu & Marinated chicken wings in garlic pepper sauce from Bangkok Bites
Ratatouille tart & pisaladiere tart (southern French tart with caramelized onion, kalamata olives and local anchovy) from Immortal Pie & Larder
Grilled flatbread w/rosemary basil walnuts, Alsea Acres chevre and wessels honey &
Gravlax of halibut cured with Aquavita and dill served with creme fresh from The Observatory

Vegetable Course:
Crispy quinoa and farro cake with summer succotash salad from the Country Cat

Fish Course:
Grilled Oregon Chinook salmon with fennel pollen, heirloom tomato salso and potato from the Observatory

Meat Course:
Braised Sweet Briar Farm pork shoulder with sweet corn grits and blackberries from the Country Cat

Dessert Course:
Oven roasted fig and bittersweet chocolate tart with wine reduction from the Pastry Girl

A very special Stumptown Montavilla Blend from Bipartisan Cafe

So what are you waiting for? Go. Get your tickets. Fast.

Harvest Dinner
Saturday, August 28th
5:30 pm at the market site - 7600 block of SE Stark

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

For all you oenophiles out there...

For some of you the 5 wines that are paired with the 5 courses of delectable food are reason enough alone to buy a ticket to the Harvest Dinner. This year, Red White:Green will be providing a stunning line up of biodynamic wines that complement every reduction, herb and essence that passes your lips. If you take your wine seriously, then perhaps you'd like to know a little more about the business we are partnering with. And if you like what you read, then consider buying a ticket or two or four to the Harvest Dinner. Saturday, August 28th. Tickets available at the market information booth on Sundays or the Bipartisan Cafe or Country Cat any other day of the week.

In the words of Jeff Vejr, proprietor of Red White:Green:
1. Describe your operation - where it is located and how you started your business.

Red White: Green operates in Portland, OR. A tasting room will be opened in Fall 2010. We strictly focus on Biodynamic®, Organic, and Natural wines from around the world. We will be producing a wine from Oregon (to be released May 2011) and we will be launching a certification program for restaurants, wine bars, retailers, and wineries in January 2011. Our goal is to educate the general public about the health, social, and environmental benefits of grapes grown and wines made from Biodynamic®, Organic, and Natural methods. I started this company because for me, these wines were the most expressive, the most ‘alive’, and they almost always tasted the best. It pains me to see people purchase their organic fruits, vegetables, grains, and grass fed beef and then to see them grab a bottle of a hyper-industrialized, manipulated, homogenous wine, that was made in the most ‘unnatural’ of ways. It is our goal to help people make better wine choices.

2. How does your 'red and white' become 'green'? Describe biodynamic methods and philosophy.

The company name translates to Red Wine, White Wine: Green Wine. Viniculture has always been at the forefront of major agricultural movements. I attribute this to the desire for quality, to make the best wine possible. Wine has been at the core of many European cultures and so the care, attention, and meticulous ways that grapes are farmed is a testament to the reverence that wine has historically had. Let’s not forget that grapes are a crop, and the farming practices associated with it are the MOST important part of making great wine.

For me, Biodynamic® farming is the most environmentally responsible agricultural method and grapes grown and wines produced following these methods tend to taste the best. They are clearly ‘alive’. In short, Biodynamics® goes beyond organic, envisioning the farm as a self-contained and self-sustaining organism. In an effort to keep the farm, the farmer, the consumer, and the earth healthy, farmers avoid chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers, instead utilizing compost and cover crops. The entire farm, versus a particular crop, must be managed in this way. Based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner (circa 1924), biodynamics® includes the ideas of organic farming. The foundation of Steiner’s approach to farming is the blending of prescriptive, holistic practices with the farmer’s experiences and observations. Steiner recognized the rhythms of the sun and moon, the benefit of applying biodynamic preparations such as horn manure and the wisdom of organizing the farm as an independent unit. Biodynamic winegrowers create self-sustaining farms by using natural amendments, ideally from the farm itself, to encourage growth and health in the vineyard.

I grew up on a small self-sustaining farm in New Hampshire, we grew all of our own vegetables, we raised our own livestock, we had a huge compost pile, and we wasted very little on the farm. Later on in life, when I was introduced to Biodynamics®, it was incredibly obvious to me and normal. In my mind, Biodynamics® is the greatest agricultural paradigm. I believe that it produces the best tasting, healthiest foods. Isn’t that what it is really about? Consider the drastic difference between a homegrown tomato and a hydroponically grown tomato. A free-range chicken egg to an egg from an industrial farm. Fresh squeezed orange juice to orange juice from concentrate. Wine isn’t all the same and there are drastic differences in taste from grapes grown and wines made conventionally vs. Biodynamic®, Organic, or Naturally made.

3. Tell us about your varietals. What's new, hot and what's your favorite.

Red White: Green supports all of the vitis vinifera grapes. Wine is more than just Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Personally, I am in love with Syrah. For me, it is the most diverse grape, it expresses it’s ‘terroir’ much more than any other grape and you can find amazing examples all over the globe. It’s a shame that it doesn’t get more attention because it is such a generous wine. From Southern and Eastern Oregon (yes, we grow exceptional Syrah here), to the multiple valleys of the Rhone, to the Mountains of Italy, to the flower kingdom in South Africa, to Hawks Bay in New Zealand, to Walla Walla, and even in the mountains of the Sonoma Coast, Syrah is always sharing where it is from.

4. Who are your main customers? Where can we find your wines?

My main customers are consumers that are interested in learning more about the health, social, and environmental benefits of wines that are Biodynamic®, Organic, or Naturally made. There isn’t a very reliable way to find these wines CURRENTLY. It is our goal to help anyone find these wines and learn the differences between these agricultural and wine producing methods. It is needed within the wine profession and to the consumer at large. You will be able to find our wines at most specialty wine shops here in Portland soon. A list will be posted on our website in the coming months.

5. Do you grow the fruit that produces your wine, or do you have contract vineyards that are biodynamic and sustainable growers?

Currently, we do not grow any grapes or make any wine. We leave that to the dedicated farmers and vignerons we partner with. Locally, I work with three wineries that allow me to taste through barrels to produce a wine that is unique for Red White: Green. I would never call myself a ‘winemaker’, I prefer ‘barrel hunter’. I am excited for the new wines that will be released in May 2011 and I look forward to sharing more about those at a later date.

6. How did you come to partner with Montavilla Farmers Market?

The opportunity presented itself through Beth Kluvers, the treasurer of the Montavilla Farmers Market. She knew about my company and thought it would be a great fit. I am honored to be one of the many excellent local companies involved in this year’s Harvest Dinner. It is a great platform for the wines and a great way to attract awareness to the benefits of Biodynamic®, Organic, and Natural wines.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Versatility of Pasta and Pizza

My fiance's grandmother was Italian. She would get angry when fine restaurants would serve simple dishes like foccacia or pasta dressed with olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes saying "It's peasant food! It's what we ate when we had no money!"

Inspired by today's chef demo at the market (see the post immediately preceding this one), this week's menu at home is going to happily feature some of that peasant food and we're going to revel in it and top it with some of the prettiest produce from the market and congratulate ourselves for making something that tasted so good with such simple ingredients. In fact that is one reason why I like making Italian food. From one simple base like pasta or pizza, you can find a use for almost anything you bring home from the market. And once you've tried your hand at making your own dough a few times and have your method down, you'll wonder why you didn't learn sooner. Of course sometimes, it's easier to buy a box of dried pasta or pick a pizza up from Hot Lips. But there's something about making it yourself that just makes it taste that much better.

The first thing we did once we made it home from the market was to pull some fresh pasta out of the freezer, cook it and toss it with some basil-hazelnut pesto (available at Kitchen Dances booth) and plan what to do with our booty. This morning, we picked up some Walla Walla onions and corn at Maryhill and some amazingly pungent basil at Growing Gardens. The onions have already been caramelized, the pizza dough in resting in the refrigerator waiting to receive them and some crumbles of goat cheese, or perhaps a classic basil and mozzarella pizza. The corn we'll save for later in the week to grill with some veggie burgers. OK, so veggie burgers are not exactly Italian, but they are a favorite standby for a quick midweek meal. And when you had a smear of pesto or some chutney from Sassafras Catering, ordinary becomes extraordinary.

It's amazing what different shapes a little flour and water can take. Peasant food indeed.