Little Greens Kitchen

Farm / Cook / Write / Play / Gather

Kraut-Chee: A Revolution

This post is an ode to the massive amounts of “kraut-chee” (half sauerkraut and half kimchee) I made a couple weeks ago. My gut went to heaven.

Doesn’t it look tropical with that bright purple color, and the flowered bowl?

This batch included purple and white cabbage (cabbage is what creates that awesome pink color), carrots, bok choy, daikon radish, garlic, and nori seaweed. I pounded the chopped veggies for a while after mixing them with sea salt, and then pressed it firmly into mason jars, and placed a weight inside so that the veg would would remain free from too much air flow, and densely packed. With a weight the mixture is kept beneath the brine that develops. Weeks later, this is what it morphed into… No wonder I used to be afraid of my ferments!


Kraut-Chee

Small Hands, Big Night

I catered an event the other night with around fifty people in fluid attendance. I’ve never done this before! It took me a few days of prep time after work during the week to really be prepared by Saturday night. But it happened, and I was surprised at how well it went! Appetizers are tricky, because I had to make it hand-friendly. Fingers are the best utensils anyways.

The dishes included devilled eggs with a kalamata olive tapenade…

deviled eggs 2 deviled eggs

Goat cheese rolled with toasted almonds and sauteed mushrooms, and garnished with fresh lemon juice and zest…cheese ball 3LR

Roasted roots with a curry aioli…roasted root2 Lamb, spinach, feta, and onion wraps in steamed collard greens…lamb roll5 lamb roll4

3-Bean salad (lentil, white, and mung bean) with a spicy caramelized onion and roasted garlic dressing, and served in an endive leaf… (Picture doesn’t do this one justice.)
endive salad Voila! There were some cheese plates to the right as well. Also, the new handbills for the Little Greens Kitchen are down to the left of the table, and the serving plates were arranged on a piece of driftwood. table setting

Wild Greens

Most days I go to Montana de Oro State Park after work, and explore for (what turns into) hours on end. I have a goal to learn and observe every subtle passing– migrations, wildflowers, ocean tides, as well as the movements and patterns of the plants and animals that live there. It is the place I feel most at home. (I might even start camping out there to live and riding my bike to work…! I’m really considering it lately.)

There is so much natural medicine that grows after the rains, especially when I go on hikes deep back into the canyons which cradle small streams. There is yarrow, mugwort, miners lettuce, and willow, as well as herbaceous flowering plants, and ferns. Up on the hills is a certain kind of sage brush– which smells so good, and covers most of the Seven Sisters, coastal mountains, and bluffs. Of course, manzanita and oak grow rampant too. I’ll update more as I learn more. For now, here are a few photos of what I have seen lately (minus all the California poppies!).

MugwortThis is Mugwort, which usually grows in wetter areas, and is most commonly known for the vivid dream state it induces. Marija used to brew big pots of Mugwort tea which our old housemates in Eugene used to sip together before heading off to bed. Apparently, it was traditionally used in beer before hops. The plant, called nagadamni in Sanskrit, is used in Ayurveda for cardiac complaints as well as feelings of unease, unwellness and general malaise. In Chinese medicine, the plant was literally rolled up in to little balls and placed with acupuncture needles on to the patient’s skin. It was then ignited, and the heat it released when burned is supposed to be healing. The leaves can be clipped and dried to use later as a tea.

Below is Indian Paintbrush. It is hard to miss with it’s color, and I learned that the flowers are actually edible. Native Americans would consume the flowers in moderation with other fresh greens. However, it is important not to eat the leaves or roots, because they could potentially be very toxic. The Ojibwe tribe made a hairwash from the flower, because it made the hair glossy and full-bodied, and Nevada tribes used it to treat STDs and enhance the immune system. There are many different varieties of Indian Paintbrush, but this one happens to grow well here.
Indian Paintbrush

YarrowAbove is Yarrow! This is one of the first wild plants I learned to identify, and now I enjoy seeing it nearly everywhere I go– even crawling out of the cracks in urban areas. It has different coloured flowers, which appear sometime between May and June. Yarrow is sturdy, and is used in agriculture occasionally to combat soil erosion, because it is so drought resistant. It’s also great as a companion plant, because it will repel predatory insects, and attract ladybirds and hoverflies. Yarrow has a long history as a healing herb, and can be used externally to create a poultice to stop blood flow, because the leaves encourage clotting. The flowers can be made into an essential oil, and used as an anti-inflammatory. Yarrow can be taken as a bitter digestive tonic to enhance bile flow, and as a diuretic. It also is known as a blood tonic, and used to stimulate circulation, treat menstrual and gastrointestinal disorders, and much much much more. Chinese proverbs claim yarrow sharpened the intelligence, and cleared the eyes. The Navajo consider it “life medicine.” Young leaves can be eaten in salads or soups like spinach is used, or in the past I have made tinctures with the leaves. Maybe you have and / or will discover new uses and ways to experience yarrow that I have not mentioned!

Morning glory is the common name for over 1,000 different kinds of flowering plants. The kind that grows in this ecoregion, coastal chaparral and coastal sage scrub, is calystegia macrostegia. Do Latin names mean anything to anyone (besides linguistic scholars… MK, you there?). I will admit that I know Morning glory largely because of its supposed hallucinogenic qualities (Aztec priests in Mexico were known to use the plant for these reasons), and because some of the best breakfast in Eugene, Oregon is from Morning Glory Cafe. However, I read that Morning glory was first known in China for its medicinal uses, due to the laxative properties of its seeds. It was introduced to the Japanese in the 9th century, and they began to cultivate it as an ornamental flower. It became very popular during the Edo period (which was also the time some of my favorite art– Japanese traditional wood cuts– was produced). The Japanese led the world in developing varieties. This herbaceous flowering plant now grows all over the hillsides at Montana de Oro. I love the way it slowly unfurls itself to open…

Flowering Vines

Seasonless

It seems like California lives without seasons– when Summer ended some of the apple trees were already beginning to blossom, and after a week of morning frost the wildflowers began to bloom in the newly green hills. It’s no joke that we are in the fourth year of a drought, and most recently ranked our driest January on record, and warmest February. I read that drought is caused generally by changes in land and sea surface temperatures, and soil moisture content– when the soil warms up it becomes less able to retain water. Its true that most farmers are digging wells to access quickly depleting groundwater sources, because the state government has begun to ration out water supplies to larger farms. Irrigation ditches are dry and cracking, and without being an alarmist, I will admit that I am holding out for an El Nino if Californians hope to shower and eat as per usual this Summer. Of course, it has spurred a great recognition for the benefits (and necessity) of conservation as Gov. Jerry Brown has recently declared state-wide emergency measures will be adopted.

State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus said, “[…] At a time when communities are running out of water, fields continue to remain fallowed for a second year, and fish and wildlife are suffering, the prospect that this year will be worse than last year is very real. Urban water users must cut back more – to extend their own supplies and to allow for flexibility in the system. Whether in self-interest or community spirit, conservation is by far the smartest and most cost effective way to deal with this difficult drought.”

On weekends I work for a small family owned farm in Arroyo Grande, and their main source of income comes from a hydroponic greenhouse, which is able to recycle its water and nutrients, and keep a semi-consistent temperature to maintain year-round production of leafy greens to sell to restaurants. Like a lot of small farms they have been concerned, too. Much of California’s agricultural land will be sitting fallow this year– unplanted due to limited sources of water for irrigation. If the drought persists, around 10 to 20,000 farmers could be out of work. Of course, some farms are near reservoirs and don’t need to worry as much as folks in the Valley. Eric, who I help at Pepper Creek farms in Arroyo Grande, noted that wineries are still growing grapes despite the drought, and he posed the question: Do we want to grow food, or do we want to grow wine?

Of course, there are long term benefits to crop rotation, free range livestock grazing, and water catchment system that can help build organic matter in our soil, and prepare for future droughts. In the meantime, I hold on to John Steinbeck’s line as quoted from East of Eden, ““And it never failed that during the dry years the people forgot about the rich years, and during the wet years they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way.”

Lamb-Spinach Empenada
This dish is inspired by the whole of present California– it is ethnically and seasonally muddled like our beautiful state. Pictured is an empanada with locally-raised lamb, spinach, onion, and feta, and served with a side of kalamata olives. Somewhat mediterranean, like our climate on the Central Coast, and somewhat South American– many of us do speak Spanish here, right?

A Pop-up, Pre-Spring!



These photos are from a dinner I catered during the Winter, which was a three course meal for about twenty people!

On a hike I was inspired to make a miso cream broth with mushroom and goat cheese dumplings. This miso based broth has so much flavor, and after rolling out the dough I stuffed each one with sauteed button and portobello mushrooms from our garden, oyster mushrooms that popped up in Los Osos Oaks Reserve, and lots of goat cheese. The broth was the best part, because it was so flavorful. It contained a vegetable broth base, and lots of miso paste (which I would love to start making from scratch), white wine, some cream, and spices! Each bowl also contained three of the dumplings, and before serving I garnished each with chives. You cannot see the dumplings in the image of the main dish… so I included a photo of the them before they were boiled.

After the soup came a spicy three bean salad (mung, fava, and adzuki) with sauteed kale, and a dressing made with caramelized onion and roasted garlic. I love emphasizing grains and legumes for non-meat sources of protein, and they are so filling, too. Served beside the 3-bean salad is a butter lettuce side salad with toasted walnuts, thinly sliced avocado, shaved radicchio, and a nori-balsamic dressing. I’m all about the seaweed!

The dessert was a vanilla ice cream drizzled with an orange and ginger simple syrup, and bowled with candied orange peels, and an almond-flour shortbread-esque cookie. I overheard the guests singing in unison while eating this dish– it sounded like the inside of an Irish pub, which must have meant they were feeling good!

Mushroom Goat Cheese Dumplings

Miso Cream Broth

Spicy 3-Bean Salad and Lettuce Salad with Nori-Balsamic Dressing

Ginger-Orange Ice Cream

 

Dishes

You do the dishes to think.

Glass wrists collapse

into the surgery of the sink:

metal gut of utensil, soap, and rind.

I lose your face to the steam,

and you speak: “I’m back

to where I started.”

As if its too bad;

but year after year

deer antlers– warm, bone

curving to bone–

lean down onto forest floor

as a dress zipper undoing

down a spine, until

another years crown

returns to the roots

longer than the year before.