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Beet Ravilois (sample photo, not from the actual recipe)
One thing I didn't want this blog to become was another recipe site. But one's love for food is what drives them in their fight to protect it. Recipes are a reminder that food is something to be celebrated and enjoyed.

I know I like something if...I close my eyes, start to chew slowly and try to unravel the flavors parading down the runway of my tounge. We've all been there. At least I hope!

At our Slow Food Lake Tahoe's annual fundraiser two weeks ago, Cooking Outside the (CSA) Box, Dragonfly chef/owner, Bill McCullough put a spin on two rooted vegetables like I've never seen. It was the epitome of "cooking outside the box." I fell compelled to share them both.

The first recipe is...roasted beets, delicately sliced to form raviolis then stuffed with a truffle infused goat cheese and dressed with a balsamic glaze and arugula salad. OMG! The second is...scalloped turnips! Like scalloped potatoes but better and it opens up a whole new door to what you can do with this funky, rooted veggie. Let's get cookin...

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Beet raviolis (sample photo, not from the actual recipe)
BEET RAVIOLIS W/ TRUFFLED GOAT CHEESE

3 each- Red Beets- similar sizes
3 each- Yellow Beets- similar sizes

    In deep hotel pans- or heavy pots,  place beets- with no tops. Red in one and Yellow in the other. For each container: Fill with water ½ up beets. Then, add olive oil until the beets are covered. Add 2 T chopped parsley, 4T kosher salt, 2 cloves- chopped garlic, 6 black pepper and juice of 3 lemons.  Bring liquid up to quick boil- cover and roast in oven for 35 minutes or until you can just easily put a knife into the beet.  Cool beet a bit- peel with hands then cool all the way.

Truffled Goat Cheese Filling:
1 ½ #- Cheve Goat Cheese- room temperature
4T-      White Truffle Oil
4T-      Basil- chopped
Mix together

To Make Ravioli:
Slice beet on a mandolin slicer so they are about 1/16” thick. Basically, they should be a little bigger than transparent.  Lay beets out on a sheet tray putting matching sizes next to each other. Lay about 2t of filling in middle of beet, but this also depends on beet size. Use your judgment! Then put a similar size beet over the goat cheese. Press down sides.

Balsamic Glaze:
Reduce 4 cups of balsamic until syrupy. Reduce at a simmer and when you have tight bubbles, it should be done. This will make extra, but you can put it on strawberries for dessert! 


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SCALLOPED TURNIPS

Makes hotel pan- 18 x 12
Pre-Heat Oven to 375 degrees

8 cups-      Turnips- peeled and thinly sliced
1 ½ cups- Yellow Onion- thinly sliced
5 T-          Garlic- chopped
10 T-        Butter
4T-           Flour
1 T-          Salt
1 ½ cups- Milk
2/3 cup-    Heavy Cream
1 t-            Black Pepper
3 cups-      Gruyere Cheese- grated

-Spray hotel pan with pan spray
-Melt butter in sauté pan- sauté onion and garlic until just soft
-In a bowl,  mix everything together- except cheese.
-Once well mixed, layer in pan so turnips are flat and even
-Sprinkle cheese evenly over top
-Cover with tin foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil then bake for another 40 minutes or until top is golden brown.


 
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Lavender Ridge - Reno, NV (photo courtesy of Lavender Ridge)
Lavender is a pretty likeable plant. It's pretty to look at, smell and do stuff with. It is by far one of the most popular scents out there in everything from dish soap, candles, air fresheners, lotions and more.

In my second contribution to Edible Reno-Tahoe magazine, I had the fortune to look at little bit closer at this versatile shrub and the craze it has unleashed. Here is an excerpt from my article in the Summer 2012 issue about our local lavender farm in Reno, Lavender Ridge....

Every time I turn onto Mayberry Avenue off of West Fourth Street in Reno, I gaze at the lavender fields next to the charming, old farmhouse on the corner. Even from far away, the lavender's medicinal properties help me relax and take a deep breath as I go about my day. When I finally slowed down and visited the farm, I discovered another beautiful patch in our community quilt.

Kristy and Mike Harris settled on Lavender Ridge in 1994, making a home for themselves and their two boys, Ryan and Cameron. In 1999, a family trip to New Zealand changed their homestead forever. What seemed like an innocuous tour of a lavender field ended up leaving a lasting impression on Kristy and Mike...You can read the rest of the article by visiting Edible Reno-Tahoe magazine!

 
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Spring Bounty
Nothing gets me more fired up then a farm tour. Yesterday I traveled to North San Juan outside of Nevada City, CA to pick-up veggies from Mountain Bounty Farm for our annual Slow Food Lake Tahoe fundraiser.

Mountain Bounty Farm is Tahoe's largest CSA program (Community Supported Agriculture) with close to 400 veggie shares. Owner, John Tecklin, is also a big supporter of all things Slow Food managing a 15-acre, organic farm.

For a budding farmer, I soaked up everything John was saying as we toured the rolling fields inquiring about planting tips, trellising ideas and crop suggestions. I was enamored by the abundance. Acres and acres of food popping out of the ground. It was glorious! No better time to be on a farm than late Spring...everything is so green and a cool breeze still lingers in the air before the dog days of summer settle in. As we passed by a row of lettuces, John volunteered the role a food hub could play in his business. I was delighted to hear his interest...John is a successful direct-to-consumer farmer not needing to depend on other retail markets to make a living. As much as I want a farmer like John to participate in the food hub, a part of me thought he may not have the need. On the contrary!

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John Tecklin - Mountain Bounty Farm, North San Juan Ridge, CA
He may not need a food hub to make a living but it is not to say he doesn't have food to contribute or that he doesn't see an opportunity to make a little more money...He points to the row of lettuce and says, " See this crop here, we will harvest it tomorrow but we only need 2/3 of it. The rest will get turned under as green manure. My first priority is my obligation to deliver quality, on-time produce to my customers not to manage the wasted food. But it kills me to see it go uneaten,"

John plants six successions of crops in a summer. That way he has a new crop to harvest every two weeks. He has to plant enough in each succession to factor in crop failure, low yields and last minute orders. But when the crop comes in full and healthy, what do you do with the surplus?

He doesn't have orders lined up for surplus. Nor is it cost effective to call around trying to sell a few heads here and a few heads there to area restaurants. But one call to a food hub and that's 1000 more heads of lettuce in the regional food system and $750 more in the bank account of a small farmer. It affirmed even more the necessity of a food hub...to rescue the food that goes unharvested.

When we talk about feeding the world, we don't need to look much further than the amount of food wasted in this country. The average hovers around 40%. As we just saw, the waste starts on the farm. Once at market and after it pasts its sell-by-date, it gets thrown away. What makes it home, often times doesn't get eaten and spoils. If we just learned to manage our food better, we could feed a lot more people. And organic farmers like John Tecklin are proving you can grow strong yields sustainably. Combined with a food hub to help move food through a community more equitably and we've solved a lot more than one farmer's dilemma!

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Billy McCullough - owner/chef, Dragonfly Restaurant
A COUPLE SIDE STORIES...

Side Story #1: On the drive home, NPR's Neil Cohen was interviewing first lady, Michelle Obama on Talk of the Nation. It couldn't have been more timely. Until listening to her, I was starting to think her backyard garden, school lunch and Let's Move campaigns were little more than green washing. But hearing her speak, helped me see how genuine she is in her quest. She talked about the initial transition that she made with her family from processed foods to whole, natural and real foods. It wasn't easy but they did it together. They worked in the garden together, went to farmer's markets together and experimented in the kitchen together. By including her kids in the process and not just making them eat their broccoli, they transformed.

Kids are adaptable! They aren't callused with years of poor diets like adults whose eating habits are hard to breakdown. They can change and they can help lead the change. With the parents involved, the kids will change and they will be hardwired to lead healthier lifestyles. "It starts with the kids," Michelle commented.

My favorite part of the interview was an anecdote she shared from a garden class she had at the White House, "I asked the kids, would you water your plants with soda? And they all crinkled their noses, shook their heads and said no! I reminded them, we are living organisms too just like those plants. What you feed the plants, like our own bodies, affects how it grows." Hearing her retell the story, gave me goose pimples just thinking about all the light bulbs that were going off in the brains of those little kids standing in that garden on the front lawn.

Side Story #2: To bring the conversation full circle, and then I will close...tonight at the Slow Food event mentioned earlier, "Cooking Outside the Box, "Chef Billy McCullough of Dragonfly Restaurant in Truckee, CA, took the veggies of Mountain Bounty Farm's CSA box and created the most delicious and simple recipes."Many of my recipes include just five, whole ingredients. I like to keep it basic and let the flavors shine," he said.

Six tastings were paired with local wines for people to savor. He blew everyone away with samples of scalloped turnips and curried carrot salad but the showstopper of the night was the thin slivers of golden beets stuffed like raviolis with herbed, goat, cheese drizzled with balsamic vinegar and dressed with fresh arugula! Oh my goodness!

As he addressed the crowd during his cooking demo, he advocated for the importance of good, clean and fair food. "We are co-producers of our food! The choices we make drives what is produced. Safeway didn't start carrying organic because they wanted to save the world. They did it because they saw a business opportunity. There was a demand for better, healthier, more ecologically grown. By embracing our role in the produce what we eat, we can change the way food is grown.

 
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I had the fortune of attending a gardening workshop this past weekend in Pagosa Springs, CO where the Growing Domes are manufactured. It was wonderful to meet the designers of this amazing 4-season growing structure and fellow dome owners. When Udgar and Puja Parsons brought their business, Growing Spaces, to Pagosa Springs 17 years ago, they were the first dome. Now there are over 80 in the greater Pagosa area making it the mecca for geodesic greenhouses. It is more than just an impressive number, it demonstrates a mountain community' self-reliance and ability to grow their own food year-round.

Leading the workshop was permaculturist, Jerome Ostenowski with the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute in Basalt, CO. Jerome had us up and out of our chairs in under an hour digging in the dirt and planting tropical plants of banana and papaya in Growing Spaces newest dome demo. These "Growing Spaces" are so amazing that you can grow tropical plants in the mountain climates!

Before the trees went in the ground, we had to "make the bed" using a fascinating and simplistic method called "sheet mulching." Some people call it a "lasagna bed" because you create a soil profile by layering a combination of organic materials alternating layers between browns (carbon) and greens (nitrogen). There are different theories on what ingredients you can use. Some allow newspaper and cardboard as a brown, carbon source. But for this exercise, we are going to keep it strictly organic. Sheet mulching is not only fun and easy but reduces the cost of buying a whole truckload of gardening soil. Many of the items can be sourced from your own yard (grass clippings, green manure) or acquired for FREE from local sources (composted manure and straw).

Above is a diagram I wrote in my notebook as the layers went into the bed. You can see how you start with a bulky carbon source on the bottom and begin stacking 3-4" layers repeating the process every 4-5 layers till the bed is full. Give the stacking a good soak every four layers too. Get rev up the mA few tips:
  1. Composted manure - composted manure means it is mature livestock poop and has been sitting for at least 3-years. It ensures that all the weed seeds have died and other bacterias have as well. You can find this locally from a farm. Try and get horse or chicken manure. And if unsuccessful, you can buy bags of chicken manure at a local plant nursery.
  2. Grass clippings - use clean grass clippings without a lot of other debris and that has not been treated with synthetic, chemical fertilizers
  3. Green Manure - this is yard and garden trimmings. It could be tall grasses from the side yard or discarded plant residue from the garden. Just be sure to not grab grasses that have gone to seed.
  4. Worms - you can order worms online or buy locally at a nursery. Best to get composting red worms versus earthworms. 
  5. Soil/compost - Buy good organic soil or compost versus native soil but native soil is fine too because it will be so well amended with all the other ingredients.
Next time you go to build a raised, garden bed, give sheet mulching a try and give your wallet a rest!



 
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For the past four months I’ve been taking a leadership class to gain related skills, learn more about my community and network with other, local professionals. It is hosted by the North Tahoe Business Association. For five weeks, we heard from different keynote speakers from all parts of the region and reviewed the critical elements of being a good leader such as reading Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. It is a must read for pretty much anybody because whether you are a leader or a member of a team, you’ll be more effective in your role; guaranteed! It’s a fast and entertaining read.

When I first learned about the program, I was intrigued because I heard that participants broke into groups to work on projects. And those projects were submitted by people and businesses in the community with a need. Knowing their efforts would be implemented on the receiving end gave team members an incentive to be invested and deliver a good product or proposal.

At first, I thought I would just submit a proposal for doing a foodshed assessment – an analysis of community’s food source and needs. What ended up happening was even better…I enrolled and took the class. I still got to pitch my idea and with the help of my team redesigned the original plan into something a little more manageable…a business plan for a Tahoe Food Hub!

The business plan would still start with much of the same primary research of a foodshed assessment but would end with a tangible goal where as a foodshed assessment leaves the question, “Now what?” After some discussion, it was apparent that a foodshed assessment was just a means to the same end so why not just go for the prize. It was a food hub we were after. So we began interviewing farmers, ranchers, restaurants, grocery stores, schools and hospitals to ensure there was a need an interest.

A food hub would leverage Tahoe’s close proximity to year-round food production. Something not even Iowa can boast. It would begin to build a regional food system with small farms and ranches that normally cannot compete in the wholesale market. With the help of a food hub, the harvests of say 10 small farms could be coordinated and aggregated to meet the demand of wholesale buyers. In creating a more equitable supply chain, small food producers are supported and Tahoe secures access to local, sustainably grown food.

We completed the first phase of the business plan by graduation day; which by the way was yesterday! With the foundation now laid, the financials and operational plan can be finished and next steps taken moving us closer to our proposed opening date of fall 2013. One of our main deliverables was an informational website to generate a buzz during the planning phase. I am proud to present the Tahoe Food Hub. Enjoy!