Add Blue Valley Meats from Walla Walla to the list of Washington farms that we love and frequent. We use their neighborhood pickup service and it’s worked out great; choose a participating delivery spot near you when placing your order online, then pick it up on the assigned date and time. Very convenient for those of us west of the Cascades. I highly recommend Blue Valley if you are interested in consuming more pastured meat since their livestock is 100% grass fed. One tip: the fat in grass-fed meat melts out more easily while cooking, so use care and don’t overcook it so your meat stays nice and juicy.
Is grass-fed meat better for us? Yes, it is. It’s also better for the livestock. If you’ve read any of Michael Pollan’s books, then you already know that grass and leafy vegetation is what cattle eat naturally; their stomachs are made to digest all those tough fibers. Grain diets are not natural for cattle. They weaken their immune system which, combined with overly crowded conditions of most grain feedlots, leads to livestock illness more often than anyone wants to think about. That’s why so many antibiotics are used in livestock, which contributes to why we are seeing more antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are difficult to wipe out with conventional treatment methods. Allowing livestock to forage in a pasture keeps them healthy and happy. From a human health perspective, certain strains of E. coli are dangerous to us, but the risks are greatly reduced when we eat grass fed meats. How so? First, E. coli lives in manure. Cattle roaming happily in the pasture aren’t covered in manure like cattle trapped in a feedlot. Second, farms like Blue Valley slaughter and process livestock one at a time, which ensures a thorough job of cleaning the carcasses. And third, naturally occurring E. coli bacteria live in our guts all the time but dangerous levels and strains are usually controlled by our stomach acid. However, corn-fed diets lower the pH levels of cattle stomachs, thus allowing E. coli to adapt to a more human-like stomach environment. This evolved, adapted E. coli is what is so dangerous to humans nowadays. Continue reading
My freezer is stocked with New Mexican green chile after a trip home over Thanksgiving, so I’m about as content as a Southwestern girl can get. I have plans for all that chile–it absolutely shines in soups and stews, and it’s high season for big ‘ol batches of soup in the Northwest. This is the only time of year my slow cooker maintains its own place on the counter and my freezer is full of soup ready to defrost and heat, perfect for dinner when it’s dark by 4:30pm.
You won’t need your slow cooker for this chowder since it’s so fast and easy. Most of the work is in chopping up all those veggies. If you’re pressed for time, a few pulses in your food processor will do the job. If you’ve had a particularly frustrating day then sharpen your knife and get to chopping. Sometimes food prep can be the most meditative and centering thing you do in single a day. Breathe in, breathe out…chop chop chop. Get into the rhythm and take solace in the fact that you’re creating a delicious dinner and will soon bask in the warmth of a perfect bowl of chowdah.
And abandoning modesty for a moment–this is one of the best things I’ve made this winter. Ivar
can kiss my green chile. Enjoy!
This risotto stands on its own as a full, hearty vegetarian meal. It also packs a great protein and fiber punch, so no need to feel too bad about the starch indulgence. Bonus: your dominant arm gets a little workout in the process! Fava beans require a little bit of work before you can enjoy them, but they freeze well and can be enjoyed for months. I felt like having the risotto as a side dish, so I threw together the world’s easiest shrimp scampi and asparagus for the perfect al fresco summer meal. The scampi recipe is at the bottom of this post.
This is a delicious, easy, guest-worthy entrée that I rely on to impress friends or celebrate small victories. It looks and tastes more complex than the 9 ingredients would lead you to believe. We were overdue to have our lovely neighbors from across the street over for dinner AND we had fresh truffles on hand from the Oregon Truffle Festival, so this was perfect. Continue reading
This is my favorite kind of meal to make because you start with incredibly fresh, just caught goodies. We found some beautiful razor clams at Twin Harbors beach near Westport, WA and I was pretty excited to get home and do something with them. Razor clams are especially fatty, so they’re perfect for frying. For best results, make your tartar sauce the day before. Continue reading
Few things in life are as simultaneously frustrating and gratifying than digging for clams for the first time. My very first experience was at Dosewallips State Park over the July 4th weekend in 2009, where we found buckets of Manila and Native clams and later cooked up a hedonistic storm back at the campsite. We spent the initial half hour or so slogging around, digging to find nothing, wondering if we were doing it right and worrying that scores of diggers before us had taken everything. We finally moved to the shoreline where the rocks met the sand and started searching among the rocks. A single clam appeared and we cheered with relief. Another appeared, then another.
The giddiness began to set in. All eyes were locked in ClamVision, easily spotting the clam shells nestled between and just under the surface of rocks and sand. The clams were suddenly everywhere and we frantically dug, nails caked with sand and buckets slowly filling. Visions of clam chowder, wine and lemons, and linguini with clam sauce danced around in my head. A collective energy swept over the five of us and we exclaimed things like “I can’t believe they’re all just here for the taking!” and “This is so primal!”. We even got a little picky, leaving the clams that were too big or too small. It was a very good day’s work:
Razor clams are a different beast. First, the winter recreational season in Washington is only open for two weekends every year. It’s pretty much guaranteed that conditions will be cold, wet and windy during your dig. You need to gear up. Second, it’s a bit harder to get at each clam since they quickly dig deeper and deeper into the sand as soon as they know you’re onto them–you’ll want a clam gun and possibly a shovel. Finally, because the tide is out relatively late and it gets dark so early this time of year (low tide was around 5:30pm on Saturday), there’s not much daylight for digging. It’s recommended that you start a couple hours before low tide so you can get some time in before dark. The preparation and work is worth it: Full size razor clams are big, averaging about 5 inches in length. The meat is sweet, buttery, and delicious–dungeness crabs, shore birds, and numerous species of fish agree with me here.
FYI, there’s a 15 razor clam limit per license and you have to keep each one you catch regardless of size–no throw-backs. A shellfish/seaweed license is only around $15 per year, so get two if you’re feeling ambitious and are taking a friend. You can find information about licensing, regulations, how to dig, and much more at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website. Continue reading