“Asparagus inspires gentle thoughts.” Charles Lamb
We have visiting royalty among our seasonal vegetables right now, Asparagus. It even has a crown to prove it. It was given the honored title, “king of vegetables” in the 18th century by King Luis the XIV, who could not get enough of it. He was the first to come up with year around green houses so he could eat it all the time. Fortunately for globalization, we don’t have to face the guillotine to have it whenever we want, but it is particularly perfect in the early spring.
There is something about asparagus that commands respect and adoration. Its tall slender head, held high, almost demands that we dress for dinner. Its history is shrouded in mystery, like a good politician. Some think it originated in Asia, some in Egypt, but no matter where it came from it always is given a place of honor on the table.
As expected asparagus rules in nutrition being rich in Vitamin C, K and A and a superior choice in folates. Folates promote the health of our cells, in repairing them structurally. Folates are also king in keeping your heart healthy. One cup of steamed asparagus contains the pittance of 48 calories, no fat or sodium, but great assets of fiber and nutrients.
The Northwest is the perfect place to grow asparagus as this monarch likes sandy soil and cooler climates. Be prepared to invest in a long term relationship though, as once you start an asparagus bed, it will grow for 20 to 30 years. It likes to be pampered and well cared for, with regular compost pedicures and bowing down to weed it yet the rewards are treasured.
Make sure and buy asparagus that are full, heavy and smooth looking. Those that have a dry shriveled appearance have been de-throned. Honor these royalties by placing a wet paper towel, secured with a rubber band, around their feet and store in the fridge in an open plastic bag, their crowns out. Remember that asparagus hardly needs cooked at all, just steamed for a few minutes. If you are going to be using them in a salad, plunge them in a cold water bath immediately after steaming them, to keep from getting bedraggled and dull.
To prepare asparagus, give them a good washing and them snap off the tough woody stems. Asparagus is ready and willing to help as it will snap off in the perfect spot. There are so many wonderful ways to honor this vegetable in the kitchen. You can eat them raw, steamed, grilled, roasted, tossed in pasta or whatever. Use your imagination with this elegant vegetable. Here are a few fun and different ways to serve asparagus.
Grilled Asparagus Royalty Rafts
Here is a great simple recipe from “Cooking Light” that I purely adore. You can skip the skewers and grilling all together and roast on a baking sheet on the top rack in the oven at 400 degrees, for three minutes, then stir and roast another 3 minutes. Easy!
16-20 thick and tender asparagus spears, snapped
1 tablespoon of low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon of dark sesame oil
1or 2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 or 3 teaspoons of toasted sesame seeds
Few cranks of black pepper
Soak the skewers in water for about an hour so you don’t light anything on fire. Lay the spears flat, four or five in a row on a cutting board. Thread the skewers through the asparagus horizontally, one skewer at the bottom and one at the top of the stems. Some of the spear may spilt, so go slow to avoid this. There are your little kingly rafts! (Aren’t they cute?)
Combine the soy sauce, oil and garlic in a small bowl and whip up. Brush the mix over the rafts of asparagus then grill them on a hot grill or under the broiler in the house. Be careful and watch them closely. Don’t walk away! They only need to be grilled 3 minutes on each side. Take off the grill and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and few cranks of pepper. Serve right away to lucky loved ones.
Lemon Asparagus Ribbon Salad
The ribbons on this salad are almost luminous. Very beautiful.
Around 1 pound of asparagus
1 ½ cups of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 or 3 tablespoons of fresh chopped chives
2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
A few cranks of pepper
Pinch of salt
½ cup of crumbled feta
Okay, let’s start with the tricky part, making asparagus ribbons. First wash you asparagus and then cut off the tips and save for another use. Hold one spear over a bowl and run a potato peeler down it to make ribbons. This is easier said than done, but with a bit of practice you can get beautiful ribbons. Toss the ribbons and the red tomatoes together. Then mix the chives through the salt in a small jar and shake it up. Drizzle the dressing over the ribbons and tomatoes and gently toss to blend. Plate and sprinkle with the snow white feta. Beautiful and delicious!
“The decisions we make about the food we eat and our exercise and sleep habits are more important than the decisions our physician will make.” Dr Miles Hassell
The Year of Wellness (YOW) in Tillamook County is in full tilt boogie right now and picking up speed. Next month’s focus for The Year of Wellness is nutrition and so the YOW team is bringing an amazing speaker, Dr. Miles Hassell from Portland, to our area to get us all inspired. This free event will be on March 11th from 11 am to 2 pm at Fresh! Café and Market in Bay City and requires reservations.
Dr. Hassell is an internist that believes good food is great medicine. In fact that is the title of his book he co-authored with his sister, “Good Food, Great Medicine, a homemade cookbook, recipes and ruminations from a medical practice.” Their book is a very well written and a highly entertaining read, which I recommend for anyone. If you haven’t quite found the inspiration to get on the band wagon for YOW yet, this book and/or event will do it.
I can tell I am going to love meeting this guy cause he talks my language; whole foods. Dr. Hassell stresses that eating whole foods, and mostly vegetables and fruit, combined with exercise and good sleep patterns are the way to radiant health. Simple, attainable and at everyone’s fingertips. He says that eating whole foods not only reduces risk but can actually reverse disease.
For example, Dr. Hassell says if someone already has heart disease that they can reduce the risk of future cardiovascular events, like a heart attack, by 70 percent or more with diet alone and 60 percent or more with exercise. “That’s better than we see from our best medical procedures and drugs!” he continued “And we find the combination of conventional medicine and foods and exercise to give even better results.” I tell you this guy’s is spot on and going to be right here in our county to talk to us.
This special event requires a reservation so call Stacie at 503-812-2062 for your spot which includes a free healthy lunch. The day after that, on March 12 from 10am to 1pm, I will be teaching a free cooking class in conjunction with recipes from his book at the Methodist Church in Nehalem. It will be an inspirational class on basic cooking to get you in the kitchen, then we will munch on what we made. Call Laura Swanson at 503-939-5416 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations to the cooking class. I’ll see you there!
Hassell’s Red Wine Beef or Venison
Here is a recipe from Dr Hassel’s book, spiced up a bit by me. To reduce prep time, I’ve been known to leave out the step of browning the meat. It shortens the prep time but does not compromise on the flavor too much. The bacon is one of my additions as it adds so much flavor and is just a wee little bit of bad. Omit If you want to be very very good.
2-3 tablespoon of high heat oil like coconut oil or avocado oil
A few pieces of good center cut bacon, cut into small pieces
3 pounds of venison or beef stew meat
2 teaspoons of cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons of salt
2 TBLS of paprika
1 pound of carrots sliced into 1 inch chunks
2 fat yellow onions cut into chunks
2-6 garlic cloves, minced
1 750 ml bottle of a good dry red wine
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 28 ounce of canned crushed organic tomatoes
1 teaspoon of dried or 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon of minced fresh or 2 teaspoons of dried parsley
1 tablespoon of minced fresh or 2 teaspoons of dried rosemary
1 pound of mushrooms sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat up your olive oil in a heavy dutch oven you could knock a bear out with (Or a heavy bottomed soup pot) and cook the bacon chunks over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the bacon is fragrant and lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate with a paper towel on it and blot off the excess fat.
While the bacon is cooking, lay your venison cubes out on a cutting board and dry them with a paper towel, (no I’m not crazy, this makes the meat brown better) . Mix the salt, pepper and paprika into a small bowl till well mixed and sprinkle it over all sides of the meat. When the bacon is done, sear the cubes in the bacon fat/oil mix in small batches of a single layer of meat for 3-5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the meat with your slotted spoon when browned to a bowl and finish searing the rest. (If you need more oil, add a TBLS or 2 when you need it)
After the meat is done, toss in the carrots, garlic and onions and cook for 10 minutes or so stirring occasionally until the onions are lightly browned. Add the meat and bacon back to the stew pot and add the rest of the ingredients. Turn off the burner and stir the pot till everything gets to know each other. (This step can be done the night before and stored in the fridge till you are ready to cook it)
Place the pot into the middle of the oven and stand back and let magic happen. Cook for two hours while the house fills with the most amazing scent that will bring people off the streets. Carefully take out of the oven after two hours, taste and adjust the seasonings, then serve with a salad.
“We kids feared many things in those days – werewolves, dentists, North Koreans, Sunday School – but they all paled in comparison with Brussels sprouts.” Dave Barry
Brussel sprouts have about as clouded of a history as they do a reputation but it is a widely accepted that they were cultivated from the great mother cabbage. In fact, all brassicas, like broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, and cauliflower are descendants from the venerable cabbage.
People took the cabbage and bred it into umpteen million different kinds of leafy greens and brassicas. You see, the cabbage used to be very important crop to the world due to its high nutritional content, great winter storage and its ability to grow in crappy soil and weird, cold conditions. For many years, in many places, the cabbage is what kept the human race going nutritionally. It is not a coincidence that just about every culture in the world has a recipe for some sort of pickled cabbage, you know like sauerkraut, kim chee, suan cai, etc.
Somewhere around the 5th, 13th, 15th 17th or 18th century, Brussels sprouts were birthed in Northern Europe, most likely in Brussels. No one really knows. It is figured that they were cultivated to avoid freezing like regular cabbages do in the Northern climates. Their small buds on a stock grow faster and so get harvested quicker. They are basically a fast growing “mini me” of the cabbage.
This cruciferous vegetable contains 2-3 times the amount of phytonutrients called glucosinolates than are found in any other brassica. This chemical boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells. (It is interesting to note that Brussels sprouts grow in a double helix pattern like DNA.) And that is a reason to love Brussels sprouts.
The reason to hate them is that there is another beneficial cancer blocking chemical, phenylthiocarbamide (PTC), which is either bitter or tasteless depending on one’s genetic makeup. This gene has been linked back to our Neanderthal ancestors who were wired with this gene that “bitter equals poison.” Oddly enough, Homo sapiens with no Neanderthal genes in them do not taste PTC, so if Brussels sprouts taste bad to you, you have caveman genes. Now you know.
There are some ways to make sure Brussels sprouts taste good no matter what your gene pool is. First, make sure that they are very fresh. Brussels Sprouts grow on stocks and sometimes you will find them artfully so at a grocery store. This is the way to buy them if possible because they are most likely fresh. If they are sold loose, inspect them carefully to see if they are dry or have yellow or discolored leaves. That is a sign they are fairly old and will taste stronger in the undesirable flavor. Also look for dense, heavy sprouts that are tightly compacted to determine the best ones to enjoy.
Second, it is very important how you cook them. Do not boil them as you will lose many of their dynamite nutrients and they taste awful. Cooking them by dry heat methods like roasting, sautéing, and even grilling is best. Water leeches flavor as well as nutrients and cannot produce the intensity of flavor that dry heat methods can. Whatever way you cook them, DO NOT OVERCOOK THEM!! That is the sure fire way to kill Brussels sprouts and give your children nightmares.
Indisputably, Brussels sprouts are most sumptuous when combined with a rich pork product like bacon, prosciutto or pancetta. (What isn’t better with bacon??) This basic recipe that I am humbly offering up here is the perfect way to cook them. (And it is easy too!) I have included many variations on the theme which a few include bacon, of course. Just don’t overcook them or you will hate them whatever your genes pool is.
Basic Roasted Brussels Sprouts (even a caveman would like)
1 1/2 pounds of Brussels sprouts
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
3/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper
Sprinkle of red pepper flakes (Optional)
Preheat your campfire (oven) to 400 degrees. Prepare your Brussels sprouts by peeling off the ends and any yellow outer leaves then cutting them into halves. Place them into a bowl and toss them with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Then pour them out into a baking dish and spread them out to a single layer. Roast for 20-30 minutes, on the top shelf of the oven, stirring once during the baking time. You know they are done when they are just getting tender but still bright green in color. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper then serve immediately. (Some people swear by a little extra salt on them)
Bacon roasted Brussels sprouts
Before you roast the Brussels sprouts, cut up 2-3 pieces of thick center cut bacon into matchsticks and sauté in a heavy skillet then pour bacon grease and bacon pieces on the Brussels sprouts in the bowl and toss with salt and pepper. (if they seem a bit dry add a tablespoon of olive oil) Roast 20-30 minutes, on the top shelf of the oven till done.
Bacon walnut cranberry roasted Brussels sprouts
Do the same technique as above but add 1/2 cup of chopped raw walnuts with the bacon and sauté together. Roast like the basic recipe. After the Brussels sprouts have roasted, toss ½ cup of dried cranberries with the sprouts.
Garlic roasted parmesan Brussels sprouts
Do the same technique as the basic roasted Brussels sprouts but add three to four cloves of minced garlic to the sprouts when you toss them with the olive oil. Roast as directed in the basic recipe except half way through the roasting when you stir them, sprinkle them with 2-4 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese. Continue to roast till done.
“Stop treating your stomach like a compost and start treating it like a garden!” Steve Meyerowitz aka Sproutman
How’s your year of wellness going? Mine is doing good so far, which I think is a new record that I actually made it to the middle of January still inspired. It feels so good to be eating healthy and caring for myself. One of the habits I love to do but had totally forgotten about is growing my own sprouts.
Sprouts are probably the number one super foods that you could possible eat. They are nutritional complete, chocked full of vitamins, minerals, proteins, chlorophyll and enzymes. They are low in calories and contain nutritional super powers. Amazingly enough, the industrious Chinese discovered their nutritional value over 5000 years ago.
The reason sprouts are so super charged is because they contain all the elements a plant needs for life and growth. The endosperm of the seed is the storehouse of carbohydrates, protein, RNA, DNA and nutrients. When sprouts are used as food, the powerful life force in them is released into the body. These essential nutrients, only found in live foods, signal the body to generate healthy cells and fuel us with new vigor and life. Sprouts are basically miniature fountains of youth!
There is just one tiny problem; you really can’t buy them anymore ever since commercially grown sprouts have gotten a bad reputation of handing out tainted sprouts occasionally. Fortunately this is an easy problem to cure…..grow your own. Growing you own sprouts is easy and safe, takes very little equipment, provides fresh, organic, produce all year long, and is really cheap. Oh, I forgot to mention, it’s actually quite fun.
The simplest way to get started is to get a quart mason jar, buy a screened lid at Mother Nature’s, or make your own and get sprouting. (You can also get sprouting seeds from Mother Nature’s.) I personally like to use a sprouting cup from Frontier Natural Products which are fairly affordable and you get a higher quality of sprout.
I have experimented with many a sprout tray and found my favorites are the “Easy Sprout” and the “Sprout Master.” These trays, seeds, and directions on how to grow sprouts in trays and in a jar are on the web. My personal favorite is sproutpeople.com. A very good book to read about how to sprout and the enormous benefits of them is “Sprouts; the Miracle Food” by Steve Meyerowitz aka “Sprout man.” Meyerowitz, who is a passionate believer, healed himself of asthma and severe allergies by eating lots of sprouts.
You can sprout just about any seed that hasn’t been roasted. Some of the favorites are;
Alfalfa sprouts are what people typically think of when you mention sprouts. They are chocked full of protein and antioxidants.
Broccoli sprouts have just recently become popular after it was discovered that they abound with the amazing cancer-fighting phytochemical, sulforaphane.
Garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas, are a good source of fiber and can be sprouted to make delightfully delicious hummus.
Lentil sprouts, (one of my favs) are very tasty and can be eaten raw or cooked.
Mung bean sprouts are super high in protein, fiber and Vit C. They should be sprouted in the dark to avoid a bitter flavor.
Radish sprouts taste just like radishes, bright and fresh. Loaded with Vitamin C. They are great on sandwiches or in salads.
There is something completely satisfying about growing your own food, especially in the dead of the winter. I am always amazed with how clear and vital I feel after eating sprouts. You will be able to feel the difference almost immediately. You will feel like a super sprout yourself by eating and growing your own sprouts with very little effort.
Legume Sprout Salad with Asian Peanut Dressing
This recipe is a treat for the senses with its bright colors and medley of flavors. I sprouted lentils, chickpeas, peas, mung and adzuki beans for this. To make this a main dish, add a can of albacore tuna. Tahini, sesame paste, can be substituted for the peanut butter. Remember to use as many organic products as possible. Serves 4
2 to 3 cups legume sprouts
1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced
3 or 4 carrots, grated
1 or 2 sweet peppers, chopped
Asian Peanut dressing
1 cup of chicken or veggie broth, low sodium
3 tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter or ptahini
1 tablespoon of low sodium soy sauce
4 tablespoons of rice vinegar
1 tablespoon of white wine
½ to 1 teaspoon of hot sauce,
(I like to use Sriracha Thai)
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of honey
1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large shallot, minced
Prepare the veggies and toss merrily in a medium bowl. Toss all the dressing ingredients into the blender and frothify. Artfully plate the veggies on a beautiful plate and drizzle with the dressing. To life!
This is a year to get excited here in Tillamook County in NW Oregon because 2016 is the Year of Wellness. If you think back in over your life events, as most of us do this time of year, the years that we were healthy and vibrant are standout years. That is what 2016 is lining up to be, a year of taking our health back and feeling full of life and possibilities.
This idea was hatched by a group of food-centric organizations called the “Tillamook County Good Food Alliance” led by county commissioner, Bill Baertlain. Through brain storming and enthusiasm to bring more health to our county, the Year of Wellness 2016 (YOW) was set in place. The goal of this year is to increase awareness of what creates a healthy lifestyle and provide support and motivation to make it happen.
A website has been set up just for this occasion. At this web stie you can sign up to join the wellness challenge as an individual or as a group. On this website you will be able to track your exercise, water intake, sleep and what you eat and you won’t be alone. There will be many people there wanting the same thing as you, to take back their health. (I even got all excited and started a new blog, thegolightlygourmet.wordpress.com, to highlight eating healthy this year. Come over the check it out!)
YOW will also be bringing many speakers who are leading experts in their field to our humble Tillamook county to share their knowledge.
It has been proven in many studies that having a like-minded community around you will help significantly towards reaching your goals. Social media has opened up a whole new horizon on this subject and researchers have found that people who engaged in social support online lost twice as much weight as those that went at it alone. The research also shows that social media support helps people to reach other goals as well like quitting smoking and improving physical activity.
The YOW will be focusing on helping people through community support to quit smoking, replace sugary beverages with water, get 8 hours of sleep a night, move more and eat better. I will be beating the drum and getting on my soapbox for us all to go get on board and even harder……stay on board.
There are some great resources out there to help with healthy eating other than the YOW web site and my columns. OSU extension office will be offering free samples of their innovative, healthy recipes that are healthy, affordable and delicious at pop up locations. The YOW website will be listing those locations each month but meanwhile you can pop on over to their website that is available 27/7 in both English and Spanish for all of their recipes and tips and tools. The web address is https://foodhero.org/ and is well worth the visit!
Another wonderful resource is Choosemyplate.gov, which is a government run website that focuses on the 5 food groups, fruit, veggies, grains, dairy and protein. It has all kinds of fun tools on there for figuring out the healthiest way to eat and exercise. Their food pyramid is a bit outdated but they do have some good tools for tracking. My personal favorite food pyramid however is health guru Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory food pyramid. It is smart, thoughtful and up to date with vegetables and fruits being the base of the pyramid and chocolate (oh yeah!) being at the top.
One of the easiest ways to get off sugar and get feeling healthy is to start making green smoothies. When I am drinking green smoothies in the morning for breakfast I experience a loss in cravings of naughty foods, mental clarity (yup, a high commodity) boosted immunity, increased energy, weight loss, glowing happy skin and excellent “regularity” if ya know what I mean. Now you know why I am amazed that I ever stopped consuming green smoothies. (Slap forehead)
There is no way to go wrong with making them but there are a few tips to making them delightfully delicious. Leafy greens to start with are spinach, romaine, and rainbow or Swiss chard since they are more neutral tasting. I love kale, mint and parsley too but they have a bit of a stronger flavor. Some folks prefer to use all fresh, raw ingredients, but I like using some frozen fruit since it lends a thicker, ice cream-like texture.
So come on board the YOW train and make a pledge to create 2016 as your healthiest year ever. I know I’ve signed up and am very excited to be sharing about my very favorite subject, healthy eating, with you. I am committed to making this a healthy and stimulating year for all of us. Let’s all put our energy into our greatest wealth, our health, for 2016.
Basic recipe for a Green Smoothie
This is enough for two people or one huge serving
2 cups of chopped deep leafy greens or veggies
2 cups of liquid (preferably no sugar added)
3 cups of fruit
Add leafy greens to the blender and then pour in the liquid, blend till green and bright. Add the fruit one cup at a time if frozen, dump it all in if not; blend till green and frothy. Drink. Simple. Perfect.
Leafy greens to choose from; Kale, chard, romaine, spinach, collards, dandelion, mint, parsley, and green salad mix. (remove stems from chard, kale and collards)
Veggies to choose from; chopped up cucumber, zucchini, celery, sprouts, carrots and whatever else you feel like experimenting with.
Liquids to choose from; Coconut water or milk, almond milk, diluted juice (I only use 1/2 cup of coconut milk or juice and the rest water)
Fruits to choose from;
Low glycemic to be used liberally; Berries, apples, pears, grapefruit, peaches, apricots, kiwi, lemon, lime, cranberries, plums or figs (not dried)
Medium glycemic fruits; Banana, oranges, grapes and papaya
High glycemic to be used sparingly; pineapple, mango , melons, honey and dried dates
Add ins; A slice of ginger root, chia, avocado, hemp or flax seeds, supergreen powder, nut butter, unsweetened coconut meat, cinnamon, pure vanilla extract, protein powder, acai powder, salt, lime or lemon juice, cocoa powder and coconut oil.
“Oysters are one of the supreme delights that nature has bestowed on man.” James Beard
Oysters are one of the great celebration foods that over the centuries, rich and poor alike have enjoyed. The early English settlers practically survived on oysters as they were a reliable and tasty source of nutrition. Of course, they learned this from the Native Americans who had been dinning on this briny bivalve for over 6000 years. The new world was swimming with a seemingly endless supply of oysters and everyone was chowing on them. Obviously oysters are deeply woven into American’s culinary history.
Within this rich culinary history is a smaller chapter on oysters being served up on Christmas Eve, usually in the form of oyster stew. This tradition came over with the Irish immigrants in the mid-1800s. Back in Ireland, on Christmas Eve they would make a dried lingcod stew to adhere to the Catholic belief of no (land) meat that night. When the Irish came in great force to America they found that oysters tastily replaced that ole’ salty cod and a star was born.
It seems there are as many ways of making oyster stew as there are immigrants that have come to our shores. Some like it simple and some like it complicated. My husband Paul’s father was a big believer in a simple oyster stew and was horrified to have Paul make him oyster stew that was full of spinach and water chestnuts. He declared it “hippie chowder” and fished out his oysters to make a simpler rendition.
It is important to be picky about your oysters and buy only the best and most fresh. They are filter feeders and are what they eat. We are so lucky here on the North Oregon Coast to have Netarts Bay Oysters at our fingertips. Netarts bay is a pristine estuary that is considered more of a salt water inlet, as it has no rivers that dump into it. This insures that even in the rainiest of conditions (like now!) the bay remains clean, free from run off.
Manzanita fresh foods and Community Supported Fishery in Garibaldi sell Netarts Bay Oysters but they only come in the shell. We prefer them in the shell and I have instructions in the recipe if you purchase them that way. If you choose to buy pre-shucked raw oysters for this stew, its makes it much easier but you won’t get Netarts’ oysters that way.
This recipe I’m sharing is Paul’s rendition of oyster stew, a cross between “hippie chowder” and a purist’s oyster stew. It’s a very easy stew to make and worth the effort. The oysters make this stew full of the flavors of our beautiful coast worth rejoicing and a shining holiday meal.
NW Pacific oyster stew
Serves 6 for dinner, more for an appetizer.
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
1 large onion, diced large
2 cloves of garlic, minced fine
5 stalks of celery, diced large
2 large leeks, white and light green parts, chopped into rings
1/4 teaspoon of dried red peppers
1/4 cup of butter, cut into fourths
8 cups of liquid (that includes the oyster juice)
2 large white potatoes, cubed
1 teaspoon of black pepper, cracked
1 tablespoon each of minced fresh sage, parsley and rosemary
OR 1 teaspoon each of dried sage, parsley and rosemary
3 dozen oysters in their liquid (if they are in the shell, start the recipe at the *)
2 cups of half and half
Salt to taste (we didn’t need any)
Small pats of butter to serve on top of the stew
Prepare to make history with your oyster stew! First, melt your coconut oil over medium high heat, in a large soup pot. Toss in the celery, leek, garlic and onions and sauté for 5-8 minutes, stirring the whole time. (If they need a bit more oil, don’t feel shy about adding a bit more coconut oil. This is not a diet dish!) As soon as the veggies are translucent and fragrant stir in the butter and red pepper flakes. After the butter has melted, add your oyster juice and water to equal 8 cups. Next toss in the potatoes, black pepper and herbs and wait till your pot just starts to simmer and turn down the heat to medium low, or where it will stay on a slow simmer.
When the potatoes just start to get tender, add the half and half. Bring the pot back to a simmer, stirring the whole time. Taste your stew now and see if there is need to adjust your seasonings. (You can prepare to this point the day before. Put the cooled stew in the fridge with the oysters till you are ready to serve. Heat it up to a simmer and proceed from here.)
When you have the flavor where you want it, slide in the oysters and cook for 3-4 minutes until they just start to curl. (This is an important time to watch out as you can easily overcook these little gems and get tough chewy oysters.) Fish out an oyster and chop it into a few pieces and see if they are cooked to your liking. If they are, serve immediately with a pat of butter on top and hot sauce on the side.
*If you get oysters in the shell, wash them well with a scrub brush first, then steam them in a large pot nestled in a strainer with a couple inches of water in the bottom. (For more info on this you can google it) Steam them till they just start to open, about 10-20 mins. (We used a turkey roaster with the rack in it for this) Save the water in the bottom for the stew after straining it through a cheesecloth. (It may be a bit green, but it won’t show up in the final product, honest) Shuck the oysters carefully and save them in the fridge till your soup base is ready. Place 6 oysters per serving in the bottom of each bowl they will be served in and pour the hot stew base over them to heat them. Serve immediately.
As most of you know this year was a historic year as the USA opened up new relationships and an embassy with Cuba for the first time in 56 years. That means that American citizens can get reacquainted with Cuba for the first time in over 50 years. You still have to declare on your visa that you are traveling for educational purposes, but hey! We’ll take it!
Cuba has really had a very interesting 56 years since our break-up, particularly in regards to food. As most of us are aware, Cuba and the Soviet Union were best buds so the USA shut her doors to Cuba even though she is only 90 miles away. But what most Americans don’t know is that Cuba almost starved when the Soviet Union collapsed in1989.
The USSR and the soviet bloc were major import/export trading partners that supplied them with 80% of their food and oil so when they went under so did Cuba. During this crisis called “The Special Period” (what was so special about it??) the caloric intake of the Cuban people dropped 50%. Dogs and cats disappeared from the landscape, these people were starving! On top of it all, since oil wasn’t being traded, the fields went untilled by the useless tractors. Things were looking bleak for Cuba as America turned a baleful eye on anyone interested in helping our neighbors.
Then an innovative miracle happened in 1993 when a group of Australians broke rank and brought the concept of permaculture to Cuba. Now, permaculture is a way of farming that uses everything in nature to create a cooperative system that works together to nourish everything, not just the people. It’s kinda hard to explain but basically it is farming with what ya got and giving back to the land. Cuba really employed this form of sustainable agriculture and in a few short years became a self-sufficient island.
One great example of this is Havana. It is a very large city, roughly the size of L.A. and with permaculture the people were encouraged to grow food anywhere and everywhere. Parking lots were torn up, meridians were tilled, planter boxes built and now Havana grows 60% of its own food, right there in the city! Wow.
Through necessity, Cuba has become a world model of sustainably and innovation in agriculture. In 2013 the International Permaculture Convention was held in Cuba with many flocking to its shores to learn from them. Talk about overcoming adversity! Our country has a lot to learn from them as they feed their country with organic produce and nourish their land while doing it.
One thing that Cuba has learned is to use what they have and make their food with dynamic flavors of the tropics. If there’s one thing that turns up the volume on the taste of anything, it’s Cuban mojo sauce. Pronounced mo-ho, this sauce is a combination of garlic, citrus juices and herbs that makes a terrific marinade or as a dipping sauce.
This is the roast pork recipe developed by rock star chef, Roy Choi, for the movie “Chef”. (If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it!) This pork roast has the citrusy garlicy flavors that are distinctively Cuban that brighten the dark days of November. It’s like a party in your mouth! Use left overs to make the famous Cubano sandwich that is immensely popular in Miami. Make sure and start the recipe the night before so it can marinade. Buen provecho!
Cuban Mojo Pork Roast
You are welcome to reduce the garlic if you like but I recommend you try it. (I saw some recipes for mojo that had up to 40 cloves of garlic!) Please ask for and buy only humanely raised pork. Serves 6-8
3/4 cup of olive oil
1 cup of cilantro
Zest of one orange
3/4 cup of fresh orange juice
1/2 cup of fresh lime juice
1/4 cup of mint leaves
8-10 cloves of peeled garlic roughly chopped (yeah baby!)
1 TBLS of fresh oregano leaves
OR 2 tsp of dried oregano
1 TBLS of ground cumin
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of black pepper
3-4 pound pork shoulder (humanely raised)
One large onion, cut into rings
Cilantro and mint for garnish
I suggest putting on some Cuban salsa music for this recipe. When you have that turned up loudly, combine all the ingredients for the mojo sauce in a food processor or blender and give it a whirl till all the ingredients are well blended.
Pour the mojo into a food storage container large enough for it and the pork roast. Wash the pork roast well under cold water then gently place in the mojo sauce and roll it around till it is well acquainted with the mojo. (Reserve out 1/2 cup of the mojo if you want to use it to dip) Put the lid on the mix and stick in the fridge to marinate overnight, turning a few times if you think of it.
The next day take the pork out of the fridge, roll it around in the mojo some more then let it come up to room temp, about 30 mins. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 300 degrees, cut and place your onion rings in a dutch oven or covered baking dish, then put the pork and mojo in the pot over the onions. Cover the pot and put in the oven to bake for 30 minutes a pound, so about 2 – 2.5 hours.
When the time is up, test your pork and make sure it’s done by flaking it with fork, if it falls apart easy, it is done. Take the top off the pot and let it brown for 15-20 minutes till it is just getting crusty and golden brown. Take your delicious fragrant pork out of the oven and let rest for 20 minutes before slicing…if you can wait. Serve with reserved mojo, black beans and rice garnished with cilantro and mint.