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Baskets…Not Just for Easter!

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A few weeks ago, we received a box containing a beautiful woven basket. Woven from organic palm leaves, lined with cloth, bearing two sturdy, fragrant handle loops of supple brown leather, and with a multiple-gallon capacity, the basket got our attention.

It turns out that one of our customers also has a business, importing goods from Kenya. Liz Flowers of Rafiki Imports buys baskets and other crafts directly from people she knows in Kenya and offers them locally. She knows these craftspeople personally because she used to live in Kenya herself, before moving to Eugene with her two children so that her husband can work at PeaceHealth. At first she was skeptical about her new home, but told us she has grown to love this town.

These handsome new baskets have been selling well. I’ve been seen using mine on a daily basis, looking like I might be going to a picnic at any moment, though you know it would likely be a short one with this highly changeable spring weather! We have them priced at $17.40, and they can be found atop our produce case. We’ll do our best to keep them in stock for you all.

You can check out Rafiki Imports directly on the web: rafiki-imports.com

By Isaac

Clotted Cream

Dairy Decadence to Drive the Dark Dreary Doldrums Away

IMG_1946Hot tea, fresh scones, clotted cream, and jam: all elements of the English “Cream Tea,” and a fantastic remedy for the damp, dreary weather which, though perfectly normal for the season, can cast a pall over the seeming endless dark days.

Clotted cream is made by thickening rich cream with indirect heat, resulting in a delicious, high-butterfat spread whose flavor falls somewhere between butter and whipped cream. This amazing concentrated cream flavor combines with scones, biscuits, cookies, fresh fruit, fruit or nut pies, toast and the like with amazing synergy. It is also called Devonshire or Cornish Cream, though the product made in those locations is made from the local cream and has proprietary characteristics.

Prior to my experiment in making clotted cream, I had only ever had the imported variety sold in jars, which I found heavenly. Little did I suspect that it was only a pale (and expensive) shadow of the homemade article, which is not only toe-curlingly delicious but simple to make as well, though there is an investment of waiting time.

For my batch of clotted cream I used five half-pint containers of Lochmead whipping cream poured into a glass 13 x 9 baking dish. This made in excess of two cups of finished clotted cream, which goes a long way! From the reading I did, it sounds like the cream will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for about a week, though I confess my batch didn’t last half that long (I shared it, though!).

You don’t need to start with so much cream, but the depth is important: the cream needs to be poured into an oven-safe glass or ceramic dish, and the liquid should be at least one but no more than three inches deep. All the action happens at the surface. The variety is also important: ultra-pasteurized cream will not work.

I used an oven set to 180° for ten hours. Check the temperature if your oven is unreliable; you don’t want the cream to scorch. The dish should not be agitated during that time. After a few hours, a cracked yellow surface crust forms which changes little in appearance for many hours. When ten to twelve hours have elapsed, turn the oven off and let the dish cool until it can be transferred to the refrigerator. Don’t pour it into another container, stir it, or agitate it: the layer of thickened cream can be recombined with the whey at this point.

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Before skimming the thickened cream

 

After refrigerating for about eight hours, the thickened cream, with its yellow crust of butterfat, can be skimmed from the dish. In my experiment, the layer was thick and easy to separate from the thin whey. At room temperature, the clotted cream was about as spreadable as soft butter, though with a more creamy consistency; refrigerated, it was slightly stiffer, though not as hard as cold butter.

There was about a pint or a pint and a half of remaining whey, about the consistency of 2% milk–a little richer than skim–and had a lovely, almost toasty flavor. I heated this and used it to make café au lait.

As previously mentioned, clotted cream can be used in a lot of ways, but it’s traditionally paired with hot, fresh scones (this is one of my favorite recipes) for a delightful treat.

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn Delights: Figs and Pigs

Prosciutto-wrapped figs are an easy and elegant appetizer

Black mission figs, ready for this mission!

Black mission figs, ready for this mission!

The juxtaposition of salty-savory and sweet-fruity makes a rich place of rewarding and luxurious flavor. The combination of prosciutto and melon is a great way to get mouths watering in the summer; in the Fall prosciutto and figs fill the same niche with a richer, mellower burst of flavor.

Firmer figs are generally less ripe and therefore less sweet, but hold their shape well under the broiler; softer, sweeter figs deliver a little more lusciousness. Black mission and brown Turkey figs ripen brown or greenish brown on the outside with brown or purplish insides; green figs like Kadota and Adriatic are green outside and pink to magenta inside; candy-striped figs are festively striped green and yellow. Different varieties range from nearly neutral sweetness to candy-sweet. Any variety of fresh fig can be used in this easy recipe.

Just wrapping a raw fig in a thin slice of prosciutto and munching it immediately is delicious. For a more developed experience of flavor and texture, trim the hard stem end off washed and dried figs and wrap them in a thin slice of prosciutto (I like to envelop the fig entirely; the prosciutto could also be wrapped in a band around the fig and anchored with a toothpick), then arrange them on an oven-safe rack or pan and put them under a hot broiler for a few minutes.

Watch the figs carefully; broiling will only take about three to five minutes. You want the prosciutto to get a little crisp and the fig to be warmed through, without blackening or burning.

Serve warm or room temperature. Even the brief broiling will soften the figs so they burst delightfully in the mouth (be careful: they will also hold more heat inside than you might expect!).

For an added savor, serve prosciutto-wrapped figs with a balsamic reduction. For an easy sauce, take one cup of balsamic vinegar and add one tablespoon of sugar. Heat the mixture to boiling, reduce the heat, and simmer very gently for 20-30 minutes. The longer the mixture simmers, the more intense and concentrated it will be. The air will be redolent of vinegar!

The reduction will thicken as it cools to a syrupy texture. Serve the figs in a shallow dish and drizzle them with the balsamic reduction for a wonderful sweet/salty/tart/savory explosion of rich autumn flavor.

Cana’s Feast Rosato and Quadrello di Bufala

Although the summer is over (we’re still hoping for a few days of lingering sunlight),rosés are in fashion all year around. Our wine buyer Ziggy and cheese wiz Kazar put their heads together for an all-seasons pairing.

Ziggy says: Cana’s Feast is a small winery in Carlton, Oregon, sourcing their juice from a number of vineyards in Washington/Oregon AVA’s. They offer some varietals unusual for our area, such as Counoise and Nebbiolo, and some blends, ranging from inexpensive and solid to moderately spendy reserves. Many of their wines have a Northwest/Italian-fusion flair, and names like Bricco Red and Rosato help to clue the buyer into this happy synchronicity.

This is a bold and satisfying rosé. While the label says off-dry, this seems to be an artifact from a previous vintage. The winemaker’s notes say the residual sugar is a mere .2%, and the alcohol content is relatively high at 13.9%. The Rosato this year is dry. There is a hint of rose flower on the nose, which comes through subtly on the palate, along with rich fruit notes of melon and citrus, herbal hints that reminded me of sagebrush, and a mineral undertone. Overall, the wine is bright and crisp, vibrant and elusive, even snappy with a rich mouthfeel and a subtle dusty finish.

Quadrello di Bufala: Made in the Lombardy region of Italy by Quattro Portoni, a cheesemaker specializing in 100% water-buffalo-milk cheeses, Quadrello bears some similarities to Taleggio, another square, sticky, richly flavored Italian cheese. Soft but not runny paste, wonderfully savory and mouthwatering, full flavored, meaty but not stinky (I found some online descriptions of Quadrello did characterize it as stinky; I beg to differ, or else our sample was younger than some). Salty but nicely balanced with the other rich flavors. I ate the rind—something I don’t always do, in spite of having a taste fquadrelloor strong cheeses—and found it delicious.

The pairing: The wine stands up to fattiness of cheese and provides a pleasing counterpoint, but seems to lose some of its complexity. Ideally I would pair Cana’s Feast Rosato with a selection of cheeses including the Quadrella di Bufala, but with some sharper and runnier cheese as well. We chose the Rosato for this pairing with the awareness that the combination wasn’t perfect; it nonetheless seemed like a fun and interesting intersection of tastes. Most online suggestions for pairing suggest sweetish white wines like Riesling; this seems like a reasonable suggestion.

Kazar says: Cana’s Feast Rosato: meaty, with flavors of hibiscus & subtle red fruit.

Quadrello di Bufala: bold & sharp, full-flavored with complex grassy tones, semi-soft and and slightly coarse texture. The sequence on the palate is sharp nuttiness, then complex grass notes. The soft, coarse texture leads into smooth mouth feel, the acids & meat tones finishing with the floral layers.

Pairing: A well-balanced dance of flavors. The sharpness of the cheese is complemented by the acid and strength of the wine’s meat-like notes, the floral notes swim through the upper palate while the soft and slightly coarse texture of the cheese gives way to the wine’s silky mouthfeel.

We both found the contrasts of taste and texture to be very enjoyable, whatever the weather!

 

 

The Changing Face of the Supplement Industry

Isaac BloggyThe dietary supplements available to us here in the United States–ranging from simple ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and other isolated nutrients–to complex homeopathic formulas, food concentrates, flower essences, essential oils, essential fatty acids, herbs in capsules, a perhaps bewildering variety of minerals, and so much more–are remarkable in their variety and scope! Like our postal and library systems, these are facets of living in a first world country that one quickly gets used to.
I’ve worked in the supplement department at The Kiva for several years now, and I’d like to share some of my observations regarding supplements in general and at The Kiva specifically.
The supplement market, like our world, has changed dramatically over the last decade, and as a growing part of the economy it has expanded in all directions. It’s highly competitive and, in truth, not always as regulated as one might hope; it’s on us as buyers to educate ourselves as to what we’re putting in and on our bodies. Doing one’s own research is important, but can be difficult. Our staff’s knowledge and experience, much of which is simply the natural result of long term observation and dialogues with the community, is something for which people often thank us.
The internet is awash with information (and kittens wearing toast?),
This iStock image (1312913) was downloaded on 6-26-06 for: EVERY DAY THOUGHTS CALENDAR KITTENS (MAS90 #11970)

No kittens were harmed in the making of this image.

yet to separate hype from fact is not always simple. The lack of regulation with dietary supplements is most acute when it comes to sports, bodybuilding, and weight loss supplements. For example, these supplements often contain stimulant or pro-hormone ingredients that are on the cutting edge of what is known and what is legal. These often highly faddish, obscure ingredients may become accepted or they may be banned, as thousands of people try the supplement and effectively test it out. At the Kiva we don’t even sell sports or weight loss supplements, for the reasons outlined above. I don’t intend to promote fear, just reasonable caution and an awareness about the big picture.

Thankfully, just as third party certifications for Fair Trade, Organic, and Non-GMO have become more common for grocery items, third party certifications for supplements (and health and beauty products) are increasingly happening. This is an emerging movement towards voluntary, sustainable self regulation instead of increased governmental oversight. So we can more easily choose purchases which have been certified free of GMOs and traded fairly, companies that donate a percentage of profits to various causes, cooperatively owned companies that benefit remote communities, and more!
Lastly, with numerous cut-rate internet vendors entering the market, it can be difficult or impossible for local retailers to offer a lower price. Yet internet vendors cannot offer the warmth and immediacy, face-to-face interaction, sharing of specific information, and accountability that is integral to the way we do things here at The Kiva. I feel confident that this is the major reason we continue to thrive in such an altered landscape – in a word, community.
by Isaac Boatright

Summer Starter: Watermelon & Basil with Prosciutto Roses

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Created and photographed by Kazar

Despite the somewhat regressive weather, summer is hard upon us, with its potlucks, athletic events, and picnics. Here’s an easy but elegant idea for an appetizer.

Prosciutto di Parma is an air-cured ham from the hills in the region of Parma,  Italy. Only hams from a limited area (called a Protected Designation of Origin) and only hams of a particular quality receive the special firebrand crown of Prosciutto di Parma.

While most preserved meats today contain added nitrates or nitrites as preservatives, the only ingredients in a true Prosciutto di Parma are pork and salt. Salt is used to draw moisture from the fresh meat in a skillful process that has its origin in Roman times. This concentrates the flavor, while little of the salt enters the ham. Prosciutto di Parma must be aged at least one year; some are cured for as long as three years, resulting in a rich, dense, savory flavor.

The strict rules of the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma guarantee that true Proscuitto di Parma has no added preservatives, colorants, or anything other than “pork, salt, air, and time.”

The pork is special, too–the pigs it comes from are fed a specially controlled diet of grains, cereals, and the whey left over from the making of Parmigiano Reggiano, which imparts a nutty flavor to the meat.

The Kiva carries a Prosciutto di Parma from Beretta, which is presliced (presliced in Parma, according to the rules of the Parma Ham Consortium!) for convenience. One package contains eight slices, ready to use, with convenient separators.

For about 14 to 16 appetizers, you will need:

Eight thin slices of prosciutto (you will end up with some scraps and shreds, which can be used any way you like. This recipe can be made with any good quality prosciutto, though not all are as rich or complex in flavor as Prosciutto di Parma)

Enough watermelon to provide 14 to 16 one to one-and-a-half inch cubes (whatever seems bite-sized to you)

A few fresh basil leaves

Toothpicks and a serving plate

And that’s it! Kazar used strawberries and parsley as a garnish to make a nice presentation; they will also offer a nice flavor contrast to cleanse your palate between bites.

To form the prosciutto roses:

Keep the slices you are not working on cold, in the refrigerator or on ice; they will be easier to work with. Cut or separate the prosciutto slices lengthwise and roll them up, starting with a tight coil in the center and loosen as you go. Flair the top of the prosrose2“petals” out with your fingers, or use a toothpick as a sculpting tool. Practice makes perfect in this endeavor.

Don’t go overboard on the basil; a small leaf or half of a large one is sufficient.

To hold this little flavor bomb together, insert the toothpick as shown in the photo, over the outer edge of the prosciutto and through its center into the watermelon.

Consume while fresh.

What does it taste like? Our cheese czar, Kazar, says, “There is a rush of sweet, luscious juice; strong aromatics and anise tones from the basil, finishing with the chewy, parmesan-like saltiness of the prosciutto. The aromatics linger. It’s a full spectrum of flavor: sweet, herbal, salty, sharp.”

Enjoy!

Winter Green Farm

idyllic farm

Winter Green is a visually appealing farm.

Organic farms can be archetypally beautiful, with a blend of crops and fallow fields that reminds us of idyllic farms pictured in books we read as children. Winter Green is one of these farms that offer a glimpse of what the Platonic ideal of agriculture might look like: woods, wetlands, riparian areas, crops and lush pasture which please the eye as well as provide varied habitat for wildlife.

It was a beautiful day this April for a farm tour–sunny and unseasonably warm–when we took the scenic drive to Noti to visit Winter Green Farm. Our first impressions as we rolled down the drive were of tidy buildings and machines, solar panels, and an expansive vista of fields and pastures.

Chris Overbaugh was waiting to greet us. We paused for a few minutes in the bright sunlight looking down over this pleasant view while Chris cheerily gave us some farm stats.

Winter Green is a long-established farm, owned by three families: it was started in 1980 by Jack Gray and Mary Jo Wade. Wali and Jabrila Via joined as co-owners in 1985, and Chris and Shannon Overbaugh, long-time employees, became partners in 2009. All three families live on the property (a prospect that seems enviable to this city girl).

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Their mission statement is “A productive farm in harmony with the earth, humanity, and ourselves.” In keeping with this philosophy of stewardship, Winter Green has been certified organic since 1984, among the first growers certified in Oregon, and has used biodynamic farming practices since 1986. Their cattle production, a separate but integral part of the operation, was certified organic in 2004.

Winter Green owns 100 acres and leases an additional 70 acres, 20 to 25 of which are planted with vegetables. The rest are  pasture, grass, and other forage. This allows for the long rotation–ideally six years, Chris says–that helps keep food plants, notably brassicas (the cabbage family that contains kale, turnips, broccoli, collards, and other food plants), disease-free, as well as providing grazing and balage for the cattle.

These 100% grass-fed cattle are kept separate from riparian areas and fields used for vegetable production.  They are moved frequently from pasture to pasture in order to let the grasses recover and keep the land in good shape.

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Mixed crops share space amicably in the greenhouse.

We started our tour with a visit to the spacious greenhouses, full of beautiful plants in varying stages of growth, from seedling to blown. There are ten greenhouses, six of which are in use the year around. We saw different plantings of peas of differing heights, heirloom tomatoes, lettuce, Swiss chard, and more thriving under the protection of the greenhouse walls.

 We stopped to admire a heap of the silky, chocolate-colored compost, produced on the farm, of which Chris is justifiably proud. This well-ripened compost looks rich, and feels and smells clean and sweet.

One thing that differentiates Winter Green is their goal is to use as little offland input as possible. Some nutrients do need to be added to the soil from outside sources, but for the most part the farm operates as its own ecosystem, providing fertility for its crops as well as feed for its cattle and potting soil to give its new crops a start. Water for irrigation is sourced entirely from two local creeks which run through the property, and solar panels provide 25% of the energy needs of the operation.

We walked past fields where young plants were sprouting under the sun. Some were under row cover for protection from pests and the elements. Chris explained that the farm uses Sudan grass as a cover crop and a mulch for fallow fields, chris compostwhich reduces the need for black plastic.

We saw several people at work in the buildings an in the fields. Chris says that Winter Green employs thirty to thirty-five workers at the height of the season, mostly full time. “They get weekends,” he adds.

Some of this labor is spent in taking the produce to market. Winter Green’s goal is to serve Lane County and the Coast, rather than to ship large quantities of produce out of state. Up to 85% of their business now comes from direct sales at a number of area farmer’s markets, CSA, restaurants, and stores.

The Kiva is one of those stores. Over time we’ve carried quite a few produce items from Winter Green–burdock root, kale, cauliflower, mesclun, leeks, radishes, turnips, et al–as well as their prepared organic pesto sauce, a delicious time-saver for harried but wholesome cooks.

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Chris, Rosie, and Ashley, all smiles

Winter Green is a beautiful farm with beautiful ideals, and we’re glad to be in partnership with them. Thanks to Chris and the rest of the Winter Green team for a fun and informative visit, and a great walk in the sun. (If you’d like to experience the farm for yourself, there’s some information here!)

Check out the rest of the photos below. . .And keep an eye on this space for more visits to our wonderful local suppliers!