If you’re using saffron primarily for its golden color rather than flavor, you can cut costs by using turmeric or even plain yellow food coloring. If you want the proper taste, though, stick with the real thing and avoid the grocery store. Not only can a specialty shop or website (Buck’s and Penzey’s both have good reputations) save you a lot of money, their saffron will be much fresher.

Although some sources recommend lightly roasting saffron for more flavor, the traditional method is to soak it in some of whatever liquid you’re using in the dish you’re making, ideally warm or hot, for a few minutes before adding both saffron and liquid to the dish.

Saffron grows as a beautiful fall crocus that will actually do quite well in our climate, given a sunny spot and very well-drained soil — and reasonable safety from wildlife (a generous sprinkle of chili powder will keep the squirrels from eating all the bulbs). The harvest is a bit labor-intensive but not particularly difficult once you figure out which little bit of flower you’re looking for.

The WSU Extension has a very nice .pdf about growing saffron, written pretty much with Eastern Washington in mind but still useful for those of us on “The Wet Side.” To download it, find the “Miscellaneous” section at the bottom of their listing for Benton and Franklin Counties and click “Grow your own saffron.”

Hey, vendors! I’d love to see locally-grown saffron at the market, even just briefly and in limited amounts. I wonder if it could be sold as whole flowers to make things easier, kind of like shelling peas…

Paella recipe (but I’d leave out the chorizo, especially since they don’t say which kind, and peel the tomatoes)

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Hot peppers, chili powder, and a note on squirrels

Small pointy hot peppers tend to be hotter than large round ones. The little ones are hotter because they have more ribs and seeds, which have more capsaicin.

Chili powder is made of ground mild and hot chiles, oregano, and cumin. Some kinds also contain garlic and salt.

If your chili powder is getting old and needs to be replaced, it doesn’t have to go to waste. Sprinkle it generously over bulbs when you plant them to keep the squirrels out of them, or on top of the soil to protect established bulbs.

By the way, if you like to feed your neighborhood squirrels, you can reduce the amount of digging they do by cracking the nuts you put out for them (and not putting out very many at a time). They bury nuts to soften the shell; if they can get into the nut right away (and aren’t full) they’ll go ahead and eat it.

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Newsletters: 19 Oct., 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 19 Oct., 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the garden
This being our designated planning-for-the-winter week, it seems only right to give you a run-down of what will be going on out there over the winter. Here’s a summary of what the WSU Master Gardeners tell us.
• Nov.: Mulch. Move container plants inside (if you haven’t already). Be careful not to over-prune your roses.
• Dec.: Pot up paperwhites for forcing. Fertilize for the winter.
• Jan.: Do a little winter weeding. Start planning next year’s garden, including crop rotation.
• Feb.: Don’t be fooled by good weather into exposing your roses or getting a start on your spring pruning. Instead, go slug hunting or start your brassica seedlings indoors.
• Mar.: NOW you can prune and feed those roses. Transplant your brassicas outside and start tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants inside. Sow hardy vegetables such as beets and spinach.
• Apr.: Sow carrots. Start squash and cucumbers indoors. You should probably mow the lawn, too.
• May.: Plant dahlias, gladiolus and calla lilies; fill containers and deadhead bulbs. Sow corn and beans, and transplant tomato, pepper and squash starts, if and when it’s warm enough.

In the kitchen
The cold weather is here, so I guess it’s time to talk about nice hearty soups again.

Clove-scented onion soup with Madeira and paprika
0.25 c unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 lb. onions, peeled and thinly sliced
6 c beef broth
3 Tbsp. golden raisins
1.5 tsp. paprika
0.5 tsp. ground mace
8 whole cloves
salt and pepper to taste
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
0.25 c dry Madeira wine
Cook onions in the butter and olive oil, stirring occasionally, 20 min. or until the onions are wilted and golden. Add broth, raisins, paprika, mace, and cloves. Bring to a boil; partially cover, and simmer 30 min. Season. Stir 1/4 c of the soup into the egg yolks. Add the yolk mixture to the pot and cook, stirring, for about 4 min or until slightly thickened. Stir in Madeira.
From: Adriana’s spice caravan / Adriana & Rochelle Zabarkes.

Healthy Oatmeal Soup
10 cups chicken stock
2 skinless chicken breasts
1 large ripe tomato, finely chopped
1 green onion, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1 cup quick cooking oats (more or less, according to desired thickness)
Salt to taste
Boil chicken breasts, tomato, cumin, and coriander in chicken stock until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken meat from the bones and cut or tear into small pieces. Return meat to broth and stir in oats. Bring to a boil, stir occasionally for about 2 minutes. Boil for about 15 minutes.
Source unknown.

Crock Pot Barley Soup
1 lb. stew beef in 1/2″ cubes
1 med. onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, diced
3/4 c. barley
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
6 c. beef stock
Slow-cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, stirring occasionally.
Source unknown.

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Newsletters: 16 Apr., 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 16 Apr., 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the garden
The WSU Master Gardeners say this is the time to plant dahlias, gladiolus, calla lilies, corn and beans, and harden off your vegetable starts. They also suggest planting out your tomato, squash, pepper, and cucumber starts, but some local tomato growers tell me it’s better to wait until really warm June weather to plant out tomatoes, basil, and other heat-lovers.

In the kitchen
At this time of year, lettuce is the one thing we can be sure of finding at the market.

Wilted lettuce
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup water
ca. 3 slices bacon, chopped (or cut up with kitchen shears)
1 head leaf lettuce
Mix sugar, vinegar, and water; these measurements will probably give you enough for more than one head of lettuce but it can be kept in the fridge longer than I’ve ever needed to use it up – months, at least. Wash and tear up lettuce and place in a large bowl that won’t object to a little hot grease. Fry the bacon until crisp. Drain off some of the grease if there’s a lot, but reserve 1-2 Tbsp. of it. Add bacon to the lettuce, then the sugar/vinegar/water mixture in about the amount you would any dressing (not enough to leave the lettuce swimming, though). Toss, then add the reserved bacon grease and toss again.
From: Kelly Iverson

Fried lettuce
1 large head of lettuce
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
pinch salt
1 tsp. Vesop, Bragg’s, or soy sauce
Wash and trim lettuce and shake off excess moisture. Cut into four sections. Heat the oil and fry lettuce for 1 min. Add crushed garlic, salt, Vesop; mix well and cook another minute.
From: The Left Foot Organics cookbook : recipes for great food and a healthy community. Gateway, [2008].

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Newsletters: 12 Oct., 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 12 Oct., 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the garden
This month, the WSU Master Gardeners say you should plant garlic and green manure (a nutritious cover crop such as crimson clover). This is also a good time to divide perennials and plant spring bulbs, ground covers, shrubs, and trees. Winter is a good time for all kinds of transplanting. Don’t forget to turn off any irrigation system you might have, and rake those fallen leaves right around (and even over) your tender plants so the mulch can protect them over the winter and feed them in the spring.

In the kitchen
Instead of recipes, this week let’s revisit vinegar, because I have a reader’s question to answer. After the discussion of the health aspects of vinegar, Catherine wrote to ask how to make vinegar. It turns out it’s not as simple as keeping wine so long it spoils, although that may be where it began. Here is a general outline of the process; you should check with a brewing supply store or the extension service for more exact directions, or hit the library for some quality research time, before actually starting a project. You should also be aware that it is generally considered a bad idea to try to make wine and vinegar in the same space.

Making vinegar is a two-step process, in which sugars are converted to alcohol and then the alcohol is converted to acetic acid. The first part is the familiar fermentation of wine, cider, or beer (vinegar made from beer is called “alegar”), which in vinegar-making is called “vinegar stock.” The best vinegars are made from a stock with an alcohol concentration of 9-12%, to which the bacteria Acetobacter aceti is added. This bacteria is sensitive to UV light, so the vinegar stock should be left undisturbed in the dark for the first two to three weeks. The container should be covered but not sealed, because the bacteria need oxygen. If a mat of solid matter — a “mother” of vinegar — forms, your vinegar is doing well, although its absence is no cause for concern. It should be removed once the vinegar is through fermenting, however. It can be used to create another vinegar (a bit like sourdough starter) or just discarded. After about four weeks, the vinegar should be ready to test; you can get a test kit that will tell you the sugar, alcohol, and acetic acid levels, or you can just taste it. Fresh vinegar has a sharp, intense flavor that will mellow as it ages. Once all the alcohol has fermented to acetic acid, the vinegar should be strained into airtight containers so the acetobacters won’t continue to break the vinegar down into carbon dioxide and water. Vinegar is usually aged about six months once it is done fermenting.

Well, OK, one recipe; but keep in mind that this is still an overview for the curious and you should do more research before starting your first batch.

Maple Vinegar
950 grams maple syrup
800 grams live vinegar (red wine vinegar, or unpasteurized cider vinegar)
300 grams dark rum
200 grams water
Combine all the ingredients in a glass vessel. Cover the opening with cheesecloth and store the container in an undisturbed, dark place for at least four weeks. Test the vinegar for development. Once the alcohol has been completely fermented out of the stock, strain the vinegar and store it in sealed bottles or mason jars. It can be used immediately but will improve with age.

You can find more information at:
Virtual Museum of Bacteria

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Newsletters: 29 Sept. 2010

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 29 Sept. 2010. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

Cooking, and reading about cooking
Your market manager, Connie, asked me about veggie burgers, which she was sure could be made at home at a considerable savings. I was surprised to find that neither of my good vegetable cookbooks had anything at all to say about vegetable patties, while my two favorite recipe sites had all kinds of variations. Here are the two most interesting, and I’ll put some of the others up on the Market recipe pages sometime in the next couple of weeks.

>Veggie Burgers
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, grated
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 carrots, shredded
1 small summer squash, shredded
1 small zucchini, shredded
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Cook onion and garlic in olive oil over low heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Mix in the carrots, squash, and zucchini; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in oats, cheese, and egg. Stir in soy sauce, transfer the mixture to a bowl, and refrigerate 1 hour. Form the vegetable mixture into eight 3-inch-round patties and dredge in flour to lightly coat both sides. Grill on an oiled grate 5 minutes on each side, or until heated through and nicely browned.

Indian Vegetable Patties
1.25 cups fresh corn kernels or frozen, thawed
1 medium carrot, grated
1 medium russet potato, peeled, grated
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup shredded fresh spinach leaves
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded, minced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1 tablespoon (or more) vegetable oil
Mix corn, carrot, potato, onion, spinach, flour, peas, cilantro, jalapeño, garlic, ginger, and cumin; season to taste and stir in egg. Form patties (3 tablespoons make a 3-inch-diameter patty) and place on large baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Cook in oil over medium heat in batches until golden, about 4 min. per side, adding more oil as necessary. Serve with yogurt and chutney if desired.

From: Epicurious

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Newsletters: 20 Mar, 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 20 Mar, 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the garden
The WSU Master Gardeners recommend fertilizing this month. You can also divide late-blooming perennials, plant out those cabbage-family seedlings you started last month, and sow seeds for beets, chard, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach and turnips directly outdoors.

In the kitchen
Did you expect a recipe for green punch or corned beef this month? Nah, you can get those anywhere. Did you know that the 16th of March is St. Urho’s Day? St. Urho’s Day was invented by Finnish-Americans in reply to all the uproar over St. Patrick, and is celebrated by wearing royal purple and Nile green and eating a traditional Finnish soup called mojakka. So this month you get mojakka recipes! OK, yeah, they’re a little late, but think of all the planning time you have for next year.

Ancient Finnish Secret Mojakka
2 lbs. cod fillets
1 c. (or to taste) stout beer, such as Guinness
ca. 1/2 c. brown sugar
2 lbs. diced red potatoes
3 ribs celery, diced
ca. 12 green onions, diced
10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed
1 pt. heavy cream
1 lb. butter
1 pt. skim milk
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 tsp. oregano
Dissolve brown sugar in beer in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add cod fillets and cook for about 5 minutes per side. Remove from heat and flake into bite-sized pieces. Boil potatoes until nearly tender. Combine cream, butter and skim milk and heat thoroughly. Add salt, pepper and oregano. Layer potatoes, celery, green onions, spinach and cod in a slow cooker. Stir in cream mixture. Cook on low for 3-4 hours.
Yield: About 3 quarts.

Mumu’s Mojakka
1 lb. beef stew meat
3 qt. water
4 med. Yukon Gold potatoes, partially peeled, in bite-sized chunks
6 carrots, thickly sliced
1 med. rutabaga in bite-sized chunks
4-6 ribs celery, thickly diced
4 small turnips in bite-sized chunks
2-3 tsps. whole black peppercorns
1-2 tsps. whole allspice
Salt to taste
4 to 5 bay leaves
Combine beef and water and boil for 20 minutes; skim to clear broth. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; simmer about 20 min. until meat and vegetables are tender. Adjust seasonings. Continue to simmer to blend flavors.
Yield: 6-8 hearty servings.

Both from:

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