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Cheese and Wine Spotlight for October

Ziggy says:

This month Josh and I wanted to emphasize a cheese and a wine that turned out not to be an ideal pairing, no matter how delightful each might be in different pairings, so we decided to spotlight these products individually.

sleeping beautySleeping Beauty from Cascadia Creamery

Josh says:

This month, I’m excited to feature the newest addition to our artisan cheese selection. Sleeping Beauty, a semi-hard natural-rind cheese from Cascadia Creamery, is produced just across the Columbia in Trout Lake, Washington. Cascadia Creamery is a family run business that produces raw, certified organic artisan cheeses using milk from local pasture-raised cows.

Sleeping Beauty is aged to create a slightly dry, pleasantly chalky paste. It has a mild flavor with a slight tang and a rich buttery finish. Each wheel is charmingly decorated by hand by the cheese maker’s wife, as a final touch that underscores the love and attention that goes into each cheese.

One of only four cheeses Cascadia Creamery produces, Sleeping Beauty is named for the lovely valley that lies between Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood in the Cascade Range.

Ziggy says:

Sleeping Beauty has a sweet milky or buttery scent, not at all like the stronger aromas associated with some cheeses.  Mild and rich in the mouth, but with complex savory and herbal notes.  I notice that cheeses made from grassfed milk often have more interesting herbal tones.

I think it would benefit from being served with wine or fruit to refresh the palate; I found that a few bites into the firm but pleasantly yielding paste I began to become desensitized to the subtler nuances.

Season Cellars’ 2012 Marsanne-Roussanne

57% Marsanne 38% Roussanne 5% Viognier

Season Cellars is a young, family-owned winery in Winston, Oregon.  They buy all their fruit from some of the excellent vineyards in Southern Oregon, and produce a variety of impressive wines, including Malbec, Syrah, Viognier, and a blend of Muller-Thurgau, Muscat, and Riesling called Transparency that might have made an excellent accompaniment to the Sleeping Beauty.

Marsanne and Roussanne are varietals from the Rhone region of France, and I thought Season Cellars Marsanne-Roussanne had some of the character of classic white wines I’ve tasted from the Rhone in its assertive and food-friendly qualities, along with the freshness and ripeness I associate with Southern Oregon wines.

On the nose we detected fresh-sliced apple, subtle stone fruit, and a hint of minerality.

On the palate, this wine was dry and bright, with notes of apple, citrus, cream, tropical fruits, and subtle minerals.  It is big enough to stand no nonsense from food, and would pair very well with cream sauces or heavily-herbed preparations of chicken or fish, and is interesting enough to enjoy all by itself.

The makers recommend pairing it with spicy Asian foods.  I have not experimented with this, but if you’d rather have a really good dry white wine than the oft-recommended sake, cider, or Gewurtztraminer with your Szechuan feast, it’s definitely worth a try.

Sleeping Beauty and Season Cellars Marsanne-Roussanne?  This was an example of a pairing that contrasted rather than complemented.  The wine was a little too boisterous for the very delicate and gentle flavors of the cheese, but when sipped with restraint it cleansed and reset the palate completely, cutting a clean swath.

In defense of this pairing, I found that eating the cheese was like sinking into a warm, comfortable chair, and the wine was like a cold slap of rain that woke my taste buds up and made them alert to all the nuances of the cheese when it began to cloy.  It would make an excellent wine for a selection of cheeses.

If I had it to do over, however, I would pair this cheese with a softer and more retiring wine–a Viognier with just a little bit of residual sugar seems like it might be an ideal match, a soft rose, a moderately dry Riesling, or the aforementioned Season Cellars Transparency–and I would save the excellent Marsanne-Roussanne for tougher game.

Customer Appreciation 2013

EAppreciationvery day, we’re grateful for our wonderful customers: we wouldn’t be here without you!

We had our first Customer Appreciation Days event three years ago, when the Kiva celebrated forty years in business, in addition to our remodel.  It was such a popular event we repeated it the next year, and again this year.

This event gives our wonderful local wholesale suppliers an opportunity to connect directly with our wonderful retail customers, talk about their products and businesses, and offer samples for tasting.

This year, our Customer Appreciation will be on Thursday and Friday, October 24th and 25, from 11a.m. to 3 p.m.

Throughout the day on Thursday, we will have representatives of the Infused Vinegar Company, Caffe Pacori, Casablanca, Café Mam, Deck Family Farm, Full Circle Farm, Pacific Northwest Kale Chips, DeCasa Fine Foods, Elegant Elephant, and Polly and Don’s Pure Peppers demoing their products.

On Friday, we’ll be hosting LMF Tea Traders, Terra Firma Botanicals, Café Mam, Wylie’s Fermented Soda, Fern’s Edge Goat Dairy, Red Duck Ketchup, Organically Grown Company, Brew Dr. Kombucha, Sweet Pea Organics, Knee Deep Cattle Company, and Cousin Jack’s Pasties.  (This list is subject to change; in addition, some vendors may not be here the full four hours.)

We hope you’ll stop by and enjoy–it’s all about you!

Always Tea Time

The Labrang family, dressed to see the Dalai Lama

Angela Labrang has been a familiar face around the Kiva since she joined us in 2010, but she’s had a lot more going on behind the scenes.  Her life outside the deli includes a family and a business, both small but growing.

Today, while cleaning out her locker in the Kiva’s employee area she was heard to remark, “My locker is filled with tea–like the rest of my life.”

Yes, Angela’s life is filled with tea, and now she’s moving on to spend even more time with camellia sinensis–the plant from which green, white, and black teas are derived–and other herbs and spices that go into the subtle and enticing blends that Labrang Tea Traders, Angela’s company, provides for the Kiva and other stores.

Angela and her husband-partner Shedhe have been slowly growing the business since  they acquired it several years ago from a couple whose growing family demands no longer left them time for a sideline.

Originally known as LMF Tea Traders, the company is changing its name to Labrang Tea Traders to reflect the area where Shedhe grew up and which he and Angela have adopted as a last name.  One of the motivations for acquiring the tea company originally was to help keep a connection between them and Shedhe’s family in Tibet.

Angela and Shedhe met in Daramsala, India, in 2006, where Shedhe was living as a Tibetan refugee and Angela was studying Tibetan language and culture.  They married in 2008 and returned to the US in 2009.  Their daughter, Sonam, was born in 2012.

photo (1)

Sonam keeps warm with Shedhe at Saturday Market

Her coworkers know Angela is passionate about tea, and also passionate about social responsibility.  Her carefully-sourced ingredients are all organic, and fair trade as often as possible; one of her goals is to visit the farms where the tea is grown to see the agriculture for herself and to verify the conditions the workers experience.  She is also working with local farmers as well for organic herbs and spices to use in the blends.

The Labrangs work as a family.  Angela does the blending herself, taking an inspiration and tinkering with the nuances until it tastes just right.  Shedhe brings a knowledge of Chinese and Tibetan teas, as well as Chinese, Tibetan, and Hindi languages to the partnership–an aid in communicating with people in the countries from which the tea is sourced.  Sonam provides inspiration and cute overload.

In addition to providing loose and packaged tea to many local retailers, Angela and Shedhe also sell their original blends at Saturday Market.  Angela also does tea parties and tea tastings for individuals and private parties.  We serve some Labrang Tea Traders tea hot at the Kiva coffee bar as well.

We’ll miss Angela, but we’ll have her teas to drown our sorrows in, and wish her the best in all her new adventures!

Open a New Chapter with Our New Chapter Raffle

New Chapter products are inrafflenovative, high quality, and verified GMO free, and we’re giving some away.

Each time you purchase a New Chapter product at the Kiva during the month of September 2013, you’ll have the option of adding your name to a drawing for a chance to win the assortment of New Chapter products shown in the photo here.  This $60 value includes Zyflamend (160 softgels), Bone Strength (30 tabs), Whole Mega (30 softgels), and Turmeric Force (30 softgels).

Ask for the sign-up sheet at the front register every time you buy a New Chapter product — you can enter once for every item purchased, and multiple entries will increase your chance to win.  (Please leave a name, and phone number or email — your information is confidential and will be used for the purposes of this raffle only.)

The drawing will be held on October 3, 2013 using a truly random number generator.

If you have further questions, please ask our supplement specialists Isaac, Sherrill, or Janet for more information.

Thanks for your participation!

June Wine & Cheese Pairing

Cada Dia Raw Double Cream Feta and Agate Ridge 2012 Pinot Gris

Blind date blossoms into summer romance!

Josh says:

Like many of Oregon’s artisan cheese producers, Cada Dia Cheese is a small family-owned operation that uses the best practices to create high quality farmstead cheese; but, there is something special about Cada Dia, it’s the cheese!

Proud owners Pat and Cher Sullivan make unique and incomparable cheeses outside of Prineville where their herd grazes, the cows are milked, and the cheeses are made and aged all right on their farm. The quality control starts in the pastures, where their twenty cows enjoy sixty acres of natural Central Oregon grassland. The herd is milked once a day and only during the season from April to November, following the cows’ natural yearly cycle. Making cheese seasonally ensures milk from only grass-fed cows that is high in Omega-3 fatty acids and beta-carotene. The warm raw milk is taken immediately to the kettles without being cooled so the cheese-making process can begin and the nutrients and flavor are retained. The finished cheeses are aged to intensify and develop wonderful flavor and are delivered by courier to restaurants, farmers’ markets, and cheese shops across the state.

The Kiva proudly sells Cada Dia Cheese raw aged cheddar with chives and raw double-cream feta, both of which are true treasures of Oregon’s growing artisanal cheese industry. The richness and quality of these cheeses is evident at first glance when the gold-cream color stands out enticingly. The Cada Dia herd consists of only Jersey cows, whose milk is higher in fat and protein content than that of other breeds and is recognizable by its glorious hue.

And then you taste it! For instance, take a bite of the raw double-cream feta and you experience a cheese that is firm to the tooth but crumbles in your mouth letting loose a deluge of flavors as it dissolves. This unique textural experience makes you feel you are tasting each individual precious curd as it sings away in your mouth. The flavor is bold and concentrated, yet clean–close your eyes and picture yourself in the fresh pastures, running your fingers through the blades of grass. Finally the lingering richness of the added cream reminds you that life can really be this good!

Josh adds that “the wine beautifully balances the sharp salty bite of the feta.

Ziggy says:

Josh gave me a taste of the amazing Cada Dia feta, and, while I was blown away by the flavor of the cheese, it posed quite a challenge for a pairing.

Cada Dia Feta isn’t something to toss into a Greek salad (though I’m sure there are great salad applications!).  It’s crazy rich–buttery; crumbly, yet more soft than dry; bursting with complicated flavors that deserve the spotlight.  My first impression was of its saltiness, and of tang with some sweetness to it.  It opens up like a movie for the palate, traveling smoothly from flavor to flavor.  As the “flavor scenery” rolled past I jotted down savory, acidic, buttery, herbal, animal–ending with a burst of umami that made me want another taste right away.

I started searching my memory for some assertive yet gentle Italian wine–I was thinking robust red, and I still think the right kind of elegant, not-too-fruity red (including some good Oregon Pinot Noirs) might also pair equally well with this special cheese.

But serendipity happened!

Ashley, our representative from Agate Ridge Vineyards, came in just minutes after my first taste of feta to show me some samples of their current line and some new vintages.  Agate Ridge, located in Eagle Point, Oregon (north of Medford) offers a variety of lovely wines, from a big lush Primitivo to a rich but reserved Roussane.  Southern Oregon wines are typically riper and more robust than their chillier Willamette Valley cousins, and Agate Ridge wines are no exception; but their core minerality (bequeathed to the grapes by the agate-rich soil of the vineyard) and adept vinification keep them from being California wanna-be’s.

One of the wines in Ashley’s bag was the recently-released 2012 Pinot Gris, and it struck me as soon as I tasted it that it might make beautiful music with Cada Dia Feta, so I set up a blind date between the cheese and the wine.

The Agate Ridge 2012 Pinot Gris has a lovely nose with a coppery note and scents of herbal smoke, wet stone, and resin.  Its bright, almost brash acid is balanced by a smooth, creamy mouthfeel with nice viscosity.  We tasted lemon zest, a hint of bitter herbs, tropical fruits, all underscored with an authoritative edge of minerality.

The flavors are very ripe and surprisingly European in character, more forward than some of the delicate Pinot Gris’ from the Willamette Valley.  That its alcohol content of 14.1% was a surprise speaks to its smoothness and grace, and I also thought I detected a hint of saline–not necessarily salt, but a mineral note reminiscent of salt–which made it an especially apt companion for the feta.

Together–the acidic quality of the cheese and wine complement each other: wine cleanses the palate and keeps the cheese from cloying so that each bite is a fresh experience.  The minerality of the wine complements the saltiness of the cheese. This effect worked both ways, the melting earthy flavors of the cheese making the vibrant ripe fruit of the wine a new experience with each sip.   This was a great pairing–the flavors of the wine and cheese worked to bring out the best in each other.

Hatching a New Career

Longtime Kiva Employee
Transitions from Food for the Table to
Food for Thought

Some of Emma’s Waldorf crafts

A biodynamic sense of fashion (and humor)

Emma, dressed for success!

Emma’s eggcited about her career change

If you’ve shopped at the Kiva much during the last five years, you’re probably familiar with Emma.  Like most of our employees she has worked in the deli, on the register, and around the sales floor of the store, but lately she’s most often been seen stocking beverages, dairy products, meat and eggs as the manager of the busy and demanding Dairy, Juice & Meat Department.  Among the many products she’s brought into the store are such popular items as Strauss Milk; Fern’s Edge Goat Milk; seasonal cuts of meat from nearby suppliers; locally-sourced, pasture-raised chicken and duck eggs; and local kombuchas and jun–all chosen with an emphasis on sustainable, local, and organic.

Emma’s hard work, optimistic outlook, and attention to detail and customer service have made her a great department manager.  We think these traits will serve her equally well when she leaves the Kiva this July to pursue her longstanding dream of teaching at a Waldorf school.

When Emma moved to Oregon from her native state of Wisconsin “to escape the cold Midwestern winters,” her first stop was Ashland, where she met her future husband Zach.  This summer sees their return to the home of the Shakespeare Festival, where Emma will be teaching preschool and kindergarten at The Secret Garden.

From the fourth grade on, Emma attended the Prairie Hill Waldorf School in Pewaukee, Wisconsin.  After graduation, she missed the close-knit community of the school, and knew it was where she belonged.  She had planned to move to California so she could attend the Rudolph Steiner College, but when she found out there was Waldorf training available in Eugene, she and Zach relocated here instead.  She started working with the Kiva not long after the move.  Her studies in the Waldorf program began several years later.

 Emma found that her work with natural foods and her studies supported each other–Rudolf Steiner introduced Waldorf, whose integrated, holistic approach to childhood education mirrors biodynamic agriculture–another of Steiner’s innovations.

She’s excited about embarking on her new career, and so are we, but we’ll miss her–and she promises she will miss us, the staff and regular customers of the Kiva, too.  “It’s been beautiful,” she says.  “The Kiva is a wonderful place and I’ve learned a lot about natural food.  I definitely intend to incorporate some biodynamic composting, gardening, and farming into the rhythm of the kindergarten day.”

Emma, you (and the new DJM manager, Will) are certainly the cream of the crop!

We hope you’ll join us in egging Emma on.

Good Weather for Ducks

A pastel bouquet of Rainshadow duck eggs


Local duck eggs are a seasonal delight

We’ve passed the Vernal Equinox, and spring is definitely in the works–daffodils are blooming, leaves are unfolding, and–inevitably–rain is falling.  Birds, responding to longer hours of daylight, are laying eggs–and this includes domestic fowl like chickens and ducks.

Chicken eggs, of course, are the standard for many of us in Western culture–but they’re not the only eggs in town.  Duck eggs are catching on, particularly on the Pacific side of the country–you know how we love Ducks in Eugene!–and they’re more readily available in the spring.  If you’re duck-curious, now is the time to experiment.

Duck eggs are, in general, not extremely different in flavor and use from chicken eggs–both can be eaten fried, boiled, scrambled, or used in baking or salads.  The flavor is similar, though duck eggs are stronger and richer.  People who have had a bad experience with duck eggs with an unappetizing taste may have had a stale egg, or an egg from ducks whose feed imparted an off-flavor.

The Kiva carries duck eggs from Rainshadow El Rancho and Egg It On, which are both farms where the poultry are not only free-range, but pastured in a natural setting.  Due in part to the fact that ducks have not been as intensively bred for egg-laying as chickens, they don’t produce eggs as consistently–seasonal temperature and light variations mean their eggs are much more plentiful in the spring, and tend to get scarcer as the weather warms up.

Gram for gram, duck eggs are significantly lower in water and higher in protein than chicken eggs, so they’re more easily overcooked, which can make them tough–and because they are larger and have a thicker texture than hen’s eggs, they take a little longer to cook, so some experimenting may be in order.  (Remember that the rules for safe handling of eggs applies–cooking eggs all the way through is the rule of thumb.)

The timing doesn’t have to be so fussy when using duck eggs in baking, and their thicker consistency, higher protein and fat content are all characteristics that make them great for baking.  (Duck eggs are about 30%–nearly one third–larger than chicken eggs, so factor that in when substituting.  One blogger recommends substituting duck eggs for chicken eggs one to one anyway, on the grounds that a little more egg will usually just make a recipe better).  Duck eggs have a thicker shell and membrane, so they’re a little harder to crack neatly, and their thicker nature makes them a little more work to beat, but the loft they add to baked goods is worth the minor added effort.  Try them in omelets, frittatas, cakes–anywhere you want the fluff and body of eggs.

Recipes specifically for duck eggs aren’t hard to find–here’s one page I found with some great tips for cooking duck eggs in general, and their use in gluten-free cooking specifically.

But to keep it exclusive, here’s a recipe from our winebuyer’s family that she preferentially makes with duck eggs:

Mom’s Best-Ever Waffles

2 cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks, well-beaten
1 cup milk
4 Tablespoon melted butter
3 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Sift flour once, measure, add baking powder and salt and sift again.  Combine egg yolks & milk; add to flour, beating until smooth.  Add butter in a thin stream (it shouldn’t be so hot that it cooks the batter on contact!).  Fold in the beaten egg whites.  Bake in hot waffle iron or on hot, greased griddle.  Serve with maple syrup and/or fruit and/or jam.

Better Together: A Romantic Duet from Burgundy

Jaillance Crémant de Bourgogne Brut and Delice de Bourgogne

Reviewed by Ziggy, Kiva Beer & Wine, and Josh, Kiva Deli Manager

Ziggy says:

The Wine: Jaillance Crémant, a non-vintage blend of Pinot Noir, Gamay, Chardonnay, and Aligoté,  is a rich straw-yellow color with a fine bead.  My tasting partner and I detected notes of fruitcake, peach, melon, and tropical fruit in the very champagne-like nose.  The palate had a little tang, but also an opulent weight and creamy mouthfeel.  Tropical fruit and apple came through on the palate, and a slight rum-like hint of molasses.  This is a solid wine that can be proud of itself among other sparkling wines in its under-$20 price range.
The Cheese:  I love Delice!  Rich, buttery, and tangy, with subtle melting notes of mushroom and flour.  I’ve described it as whipped cream that has died and gone to heaven, and I consider it flavorful but mild (my tasting partner is not as madly in love with it as I: he finds its mild tang sour on the palate).  It varies in ripeness; when completely ripe it has almost the consistency of mayonnaise and a rich flavor; when a little younger there is a mild, sweet crumbly core to the paste that has a subtly different but equally appealing taste.
I like Delice on a slice of French baguette–preferably a well-kneaded bread that has some nuttiness to its flavor.  In this case, we sampled it on Stoned Wheat Thins from Red Oval Farms, and I thought the cheese brought out a synergistic sweetness from the cracker that was delicious; my partner found the cheese much more appealing on the Thins than he does on bread.

Together:  The wine and cheese combined very well; I didn’t experience any of the negative effects that bloomy-rind (and blue) cheeses can have when paired with wine (like a moldy or otherwise off aftertaste) and found that the wine refreshed my palate so that the next bite of cheese was as fresh as the first, while the cheese brought out a richness in the wine that made it resonate to a deeper note.  I would like this pairing equally well before or after dinner.

Josh says:

Any good couple is greater than the sum of its individual parts.  That is just what you get with this marvelous duo from Burgundy.

A triple crème with over 75 per cent butterfat, Delice de Bourgogne is one of the world’s richest cheeses. It is made of cow’s milk from the famous terroir of the Burgundy region of France, and enhanced with fresh cream, giving it a luxurious, unbeatably-rich profile. When you taste Delice de Bourgogne, you get a smooth, sensual silky mouthfeel, followed by a slightly sharp flavor with subtle floral notes and a lingering salty finish, providing a notable savory experience.

Sparkling wine is a classic pairing for triple crèmes with good merit. The tiny bubbles add beautiful texture that contrasts the silky paste of the cheese. With the bubbles, the dry character of a brut such as the Cremant de Bourgogne contrasts the saltiness of the cheese in an intriguing manner that enhances the enjoyment of the pairing.

So if you have fallen into a rut of romantic predictability with roses and chocolates, try surprising your sweetie this Valentine’s Day with an interactive tasting experience instead. Grab a bottle of bubbly and a rich and delicious triple crème and toast to romantic duos.

Healthy Comfort Food

Nutrient-dense dry beans are filling, economical, and delicious

Brr! It’s the coldest part of the winter in our part of the world.  When it’s frozen outside, comfort food can be—well, comforting.  Happily, some of the most filling and satisfying winter foods are also some of the healthiest—beans, whole grains, and root vegetables are nutrient-dense, high in fiber, versatile, economical, and delicious.

Beans can be eaten at every meal, from appetizers (there’s a world of bean dips!) to desserts (Candy-Cane Black Bean Brownies, anyone?).  It’s a broad topic, and the possible dishes are infinite!  In this article I’m going to share a few Kiva employees’ tried-and-true recipes for dried beans, peas, and lentils.

First, a few general notes:

Dry beans pack a nutritional wallop.  A half-cup serving of cooked beans contains 7 to 8 grams of protein.  They contain a variety of minerals, including iron, copper, phosphorus, manganese, and magnesium.  Darker beans are especially rich in antioxidants. The vitamin list is also impressive: thiamin, folic acid, riboflavin, and vitamin B6, to name a few.

With all that going for them, what’s not to like?  Oh, yeah—that.  You can find many suggestions for eliminating legumes’ unfortunate side effect, most involving changing the soaking and/or cooking water to reduce the indigestible sugars that cause the problem.  Cooking with certain spices like fennel or cumin might help.  Sherrill, our vitamin buyer, also recommends experimenting with different digestive enzymes, such as Solaray’s Super Digestaway or similar brands, to find one that works best for you.

Two cups of dry beans usually weigh about a pound, and a pound of dry beans cooks up into five or six cups, making them an affordable superfood.   (Canned beans also offer great nutrition, and require a lot less preparation.  The sodium content of canned beans can be reduced significantly by draining and rinsing, if desired, and no-salt-added brands such as Eden are also available.)

A few notes about the cooking of beans in general:

Many varieties, especially red kidney beans, contain a toxin (phytohemagglutinin) which must be reduced to a safe level by boiling before eating–beans eaten raw or undercooked can result in a nasty and even dangerous form of food poisoning; undercooking can make them even more toxic than they are raw.  Directions for the safe preparation of beans vary, but the standard method is as follows:

1. Sort.  Put the beans in a shallow pan or dish and pick them over to remove foreign objects (sorting machinery has gotten much more efficient in recent years, but the occasional stone, stick, or bean-sized blob of dirt sometimes gets through).  After any unwanted material is removed, rinse the beans thoroughly to remove dust or dirt.

2. Soak.  Beans should be soaked for at least 5 hours, and preferably 8 or more.  They may be soaked in the refrigerator to reduce the possibility of fermentation.

3.  Discard the soaking water, and add fresh water to cook.

4.  Boil.  Beans should be boiled rapidly for at least ten minutes for safety.

These steps are especially important if you plan to cook beans in a slow-cooker:  many do not get hot enough to reduce the phytohemagglutinin to a safe level, and cooking at too cool a temperature may increase its level.  Many bean recipes work wonderfully in a slow-cooker and are well worth the extra steps of pre-soaking and boiling.

Southern Style Mixed Bean Soup

Pretty much any mix of beans will work in this recipe: kidney beans, red beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, pinto beans, cranberry beans, lima beans, green and yellow split peas, green lentils, etc. etc.—the more the merrier.  Be aware that when you cook black beans, the cooking water will turn purple due to pigment in the beans.  Don’t be alarmed.

2 cups mixed beans and peas, picked, rinsed, and soaked overnight
1 hamhock or hambone
1 16-oz can diced tomatoes
2 medium onions, chopped
6 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb sausage (spicy Italian is my first choice, but any tasty sausage, either sliced links or loose, will do)
2 chicken breasts
1/2 cup parsley, minced
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 tsp powdered bay leaf or 2 whole bay leaves
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp marjoram
1 Tbsp salt, more or less if desired
Pepper to taste

Put beans and 3 quarts water in a heavy-bottomed stockpot.  Add 1 Tbsp salt and the spices.  Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Add undrained tomatoes, chopped onions, minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer uncovered to allow reduction, 1 1/2 hours or until thickened.

Meanwhile, cook the sausage and chicken, let cool, and chop or slice.

Add the chicken, sausage, parsley, and wine; simmer 30 – 45 minutes.

Stir often and taste occasionally as the soup approaches being done.  It keeps well, freezes well, and is best made the day before serving, as its taste will improve with time.  Great served with crusty bread.

Split Pea Soup

This is a thick, traditional, solidly satisfying version of split pea soup.  

Dried peas and lentils don’t require pre-soaking, though cooking time can be reduced by soaking.  

This is traditionally made with a ham hock or a hambone.  You can also use deli (sandwich) ham or bacon for flavoring (remove big pieces of limp bacon before serving).  I’ve never tried to make this as a vegan dish; however, a little smoked paprika or other savory flavor ought to lend the necessary note.

2 cups dried split peas (green or yellow)
7 – 8 cups water; can be partially replaced with chicken or vegetable stock, or add 1 Tbsp Better Than BouillonChicken Stock with the water (optional)
1 ham hock, hambone with some meat on it, chopped ham, etc.
2 carrots
1 large or medium onion
3 stalks celery
2 – 3 Tbsp butter, olive oil, ghee, or a blend
2 small to medium potatoes 
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf

Chop the onion and slice the carrots and celery.  Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium heat.  Add the vegetables and meat and cook, stirring, until the vegetables’ color deepens, about 5 minutes.  Add the water, split peas, Better Than Bouillon (if using), mustard, and herbs.  Stir and bring to a boil; reduce heat until bubbles are barely rising.

Stir occasionally until the peas start to turn into a puree, then stir more frequently to prevent scorching (which happens easily—be vigilant!).  Cooking time varies, but I find I usually leave this soup on the stove for several hours.  Freezes well.

Occasionally I’ve added a small dash of wine vinegar or a little white wine to the soup to lend a little zest.  Great served with whole-grain bread and a green salad.

Gil’s Spinach-Lentil Soup

An original recipe by our multi-talented grocery-buyer Gil, this soup is zesty and lighter than many lentil recipes, and equally good in winter or summer.  Easy, delicious and unusual!  The use of the smaller and firmer French lentils is a must. 

3 cups French lentils

9 cups vegetable stock
Bay leaf
Olive oil
2 onions, chopped
5 or 6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large lemon or two small ones, zested and juiced (save juice)
Black pepper
About three big handfuls of fresh, chopped spinach 
Half a bunch of cilantro
More salt

Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil and simmer the onions, garlic, lemon zest, cumin, salt, and black pepper until “just so.” (Gil leaves this up to your judgement.)

Combine lentils and stock, add bay leaf and salt to taste; bring to a boil and simmer approximately 30 minutes (test lentils for doneness).

Add spinach, cilantro, and lemon juice.

Reheat to cook the spinach.  Adjust spices.  Serve.

Winter Reading

Books About Smart Birds

 Ziggy Blum’s picks

I have an inordinate fondness for all things feathered, and share my house with eleven roommates of the psittacine (parrot) persuasion, so it shouldn’t be a big surprise that when I scan the shelves for reading material, books about birds catch my eye.  This passion for avians is something I share with George Brown, the book-buyer of the Kiva (who also happens to be one of the owners), which accounts for there being plenty of books on the Kiva’s shelves which appeal to this interest.

These are some of the titles I chose.

The Mind of the Raven

by Bernd Heinrich, first published in hardcover in 1999

Ravens and crows are popular birds, and it’s no wonder.  They’re beautiful and devastatingly intelligent. Crows, comfortable in the metropolis, are easy and fun to observe as they negotiate traffic, drop nuts to crack on the pavement, mob predators, and otherwise demonstrate their smarts in town.

Ravens–larger, more solitary, much more at home in the wilderness, and possibly even cleverer than their city cousins–are harder for a townie to get to know.  Bernd Heinrich has spent many years observing ravens in the wild and in captivity, and Mind of the Raven is the next best thing to doing so yourself.  Interesting and scholarly, this book is a rich and fascinating glimpse into the complicated world of raven behavior and wild nature.

Crow Planet

by Lyanda Lynn Haupt, 2011

Closer to home (at least to my home!) we have Crow Planet, which examines the phenomena of nature in the midst of human civilization.  She shows us crows and their behavior in a vivid light, along with their biology and folklore, and gives us insights into the disjunction of nature and human nature as well.

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

by Mark Bittner, 2005
Another exploration of nature in the setting of the unnatural, this book is a story of misfits–the author himself, inclined to be a Dharma Bum, and the parrots of the title–escaped conures whose breeding colony exists to this day in the city of San Francisco.  Reading this book brings up a lot of questions, but also brings to light the interrelationships that form between creatures as diverse as humans and feral parrots, and how misfits of all kinds can find their niche in alien environments.

The Parrot Who Owns Me

by Joanna Burger, 2001
A lively and informative read, written by a woman who not only knows and observes her companion parrots with a sharp and compassionate eye, but who is also an ornithologist.  In The Parrot Who Owns Me, Joanna Burger tells of her slowly developing relationship with Tiko, a middle-aged Amazon parrot, orphaned by his elderly owners.

Her tone is light and engaging, but the book is informative and thought-provoking, and the story of her bond with Tiko–who builds nests for her each breeding season–is touching.  She also speaks engagingly of birds in general–their habits, habitats, physiology–and nature and nature conservancy as a whole.

If you are looking for a gift for anyone who is contemplating the addition of a parrot as a family member, The Parrot Who Owns Me and Alex & Me are highly recommended reading–I guarantee they will open the eyes of the uninitiated to the amount of care, interaction, and attention a parrot demands and deserves, and the rewards the human in the relationship may receive in return.

Alex & Me

by Irene M. Pepperberg, first published in hardcover 2008
Not long ago birds were generally believed–by biologists and the populace at large–to be pretty stupid.  This idea has changed dramatically in the recent past, and Alex and Irene Pepperberg are two big reasons why.

Like many people, I was an avid fan of Alex, an African Grey parrot owned and taught by Dr. Irene Pepperberg.  He was a sort of avian ambassador, if not a superstar.  He fascinated researchers in animal intelligence, human psychology, and linguistics, not to mention a lot of us who simply like birds and believe them to be smarter than was generally recognized.  He delighted journalists and television hosts with what appeared to be his particular brand of wry humor.  In this tribute to her long collaboration with Alex, who died prematurely at the age of 31,  Dr. Pepperberg tells us about their journey together, and how he demonstrated his ability not only to learn and understand human language but to use it to “mess with [their] heads.”

Dr. Pepperberg shows us not only a bird, but a person, with quirky individual traits and a lot of charm.  Admittedly, I’m a softie where birds are concerned, but I was moved both to tears and to laughter a couple of times in the course of the narrative.

Now that the demands of yard and garden have mellowed with the onset of chilly weather, it’s a great time to cozy up with a natural history book (and maybe a feathered friend or two–on your shoulder, or outside in the bird feeder).