As the end of canning season approaches and my pantry is full of local ingredients I will use throughout the winter, my thoughts begin to turn toward new and interesting recipes to try. I pull out cookbooks, buy a few new ones, and explore the possibilities.
One of my favorite cookbooks to browse is "The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook: 200 Recipes that Celebrate the Flavors of Oregon and Washington" by Debra Daniels-Zeller.
I was first attracted to the book by the enticing cover photo of one of my top food choices, fresh asparagus. Later I had the good fortune to meet the author at a Community Food Co-op event about a year ago. I enjoyed talking with her, and later visited her blog titled "Food Connections: connecting with local foods in the Northwest and beyond," at foodconnections.blogspot.com. I've been following her work ever since.
While I'm not currently a vegetarian, I was for about 15 years, and I still enjoy a meatless meal or dish from time to time. Debra's book is full of creative and scrumptious recipes made with mostly local Northwest ingredients, ingredients that can easily be found in our area.
The book is organized into six sections: The Well-grounded Breakfast, Salads Year-Round, Seasonal Soups and Homemade Breads, Starters and Side Dishes, Savory Vegetarian Entrees, and Fresh Fruit Desserts.
What I find especially appealing about the cookbook are the stories. Each section has several stories around a different theme, including things like bees and pollinators, farmland preservation, seed production, first-generation farmers, fruit tree and berry farmers, and lots of stories about individual regional farms Debra has visited and farmers she has met and gotten to know well. This is a cookbook to curl up with in front of the fireplace on a wet and windy night.
Also placed in strategic location throughout the book are sidebars with cooking tips ("Tips for Perfect Pancakes," for example), agricultural information ("Conservation Easements to Protect Farmland"), and information about particular ingredients ("The Venerable Cabbage").
Debra's writing style is lively and engaging, and she knows how to tell a story well. She clearly knows her subject, both in terms of cooking and local Northwest food sources.
Debra's love of local foods and the farmers who produce them clearly shines through all of her writing, both in the book and on her blog. I strongly encourage you to check out both, whether you are vegetarian or not.
Dog lovers will especially enjoy her blog, featuring many photos and stories about her canine "Cooking Assistant," an endearing bassett hound.
For a sample of her work, today's borscht recipe is reprinted by permission from the book. There were a few ingredients that weren't local, so I've added notes about adaptations I made to substitute local ingredients.
The results were both lovely and delectable. The surprising (to me) use of potato to thicken the beet soup gave it a smooth, creamy texture without the use of cream. Give it a try!
A couple of other local food notes of interest:
BelleWood Acres has announced that the response to their new store has been so successful that they will now be open year-round. They have lots of special events planned, too, such as last weekend's CiderFest and some upcoming holiday events. Check out their website for details: www.bellewoodfarms.com.
Whatcom Farm-to-School and the Pickford Film Center invite Whatcom County middle and high school students to participate in the Veggies Go Viral Video Contest. The challenge is to create a short video (30 to 60 seconds) that will motivate students to make healthy choices in the cafeteria and/or try the Harvest of the Month meals offered at their schools.
They're offering cash prizes. The deadline is Dec. 14; see the website for instructions and forms: whatcomfarmtoschool.org.
(From "The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook," p. 103)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or safflower oil (I used butter homemade with cream from Fresh Breeze Organic Dairy, Lynden)
1 large onion, chopped (Full Bloom Farm, Lummi Island)
5 cloves garlic, minced (Boxx Berry Farm, Ferndale)
2 stalks celery, chopped (I didn't have local celery, so I used daikon radish from my home garden, Lummi Island)
1 or 2 carrots, diced (home garden, Lummi Island)
2 tablespoons tomato paste (I used two home-canned Roma tomatoes, crushed, from Terra Verde Garden, Everson)
5 cups water or vegetable stock (or half of each)
3 cups sliced beets, tops removed, not peeled (Terra Verde Garden, Everson)
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, or 1/2 teaspoon dried (Boxx Berry Farm, Ferndale)
Salt and freshly ground pepper (I used a tiny pinch of habanero pepper powder from a friend's garden, Lummi Island)
1 medium baked potato, skin removed (Full Bloom Farm, Lummi Island)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (I used apple cider vinegar from BelleWood Acres, Lynden)
Zest from 1 lemon, finely chopped (I omitted this)
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar (I used 2 teaspoons of honey, Red Barn Lavender, Ferndale)
Sour cream or plain yogurt (optional) (yogurt from Grace Harbor Farms, Custer)
Parsley sprigs (omitted)
1. Heat a heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the oil and onion, stir, cover and sweat the onions until soft. Add the garlic, celery and carrots, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the tomato paste and mix well, continuing to cook for another minute or so.
2. Gradually add the water or stock, beets, and dill. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Puree 1 cup of the soup with the potato, lemon juice and zest. Stir back into the soup pot along with sugar to taste. Adjust the seasonings. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt, if desired. Garnish each serving with a parsley sprig.
You'll find Whatcom County foods at these stores and farms. Many outlets have seasonal hours. We recommend you call or check websites for current hours.
Acme Farms + Kitchen
Appel Farms Cheese Shoppe, 6605 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4996; appel-farms.com
Artisan Wine Gallery, 2072 Granger Way, Lummi Island; 360-758-2959; artisanwineclub.com
Bellingham Farmers Market, Railroad at Chestnut; 360-647-2060; bellinghamfarmers.org
Boxx Berry Farm Store and u-pick, 6211 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-380-2699; boxxberryfarm.com
Cloud Mountain Farm Nursery, 6906 Goodwin Road, Everson; 360-966-5859; cloudmountainfarm.com
Community Food Cooperative, 1220 N. Forest St. and 315 Westerly Road, Bellingham; 360-734-8158; communityfood.coop
Everybody's Store, 5465 Potter Road, Deming; 360-592-2297; everybodys.com
Ferndale Public Market, Centennial Riverwalk, Ferndale; 360-410-7747; ferndalepublicmarket.org
Grace Harbor Farms, 2347 Birch Bay Lynden Road, Custer; 360-366-4151; graceharborfarms.com
Green Barn, 8858 Guide Meridian, Lynden; 360-354-1008
Hopewell Farm, 3072 Massey Road, Everson; 360-927-8433
Lynden Farmers Market, 514 Liberty St., Lynden, fiveloavesfarm.blogspot.com
Pleasant Valley Dairy, 6804 Kickerville Road, Ferndale; 360-366-5398; facebook.com/pages/Pleasant-Valley-Dairy/161872142667
Red Barn Lavender Farm (egg CSA), 3106 Thornton Road, Ferndale; 360-393-7057
Small's Gardens, 6451 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4637
The Islander, 2106 S. Nugent Road, Lummi Island; 360-758-2190; islandergrocery.com
The Markets LLC, 3125 Old Fairhaven Parkway and 1030 Lakeway, Bellingham; 8135 Birch Bay Square St., Blaine; 360-714-9797; themarketsllc.com
Terra Organica, 1530 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham; 360-715-8020; terra-organica.com
Reach NANCY GING at 360-758-2529 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To follow her day- to-day locavore activities, "like" Whatcom Locavore on Facebook (facebook.com/whatcomlocavore) and "follow" on Twitter, @WhatcomLocavore. For locavore menus, recipes, and more resources, read her blog at at whatcomlocavore.com.