20 Jul 2010

Radishes and Cows

Posted by annmcolford

I’ve been busy for the past six weeks, delving back into Spokane’s restaurant world long enough to pull together much of the content for the food section of the Inlander’s glossy Annual Manual, which hits the streets around Labor Day. Added to my ongoing little bookkeeping tasks, it was just enough to curtail my semi-deep thinking about my own food—and any updates here.

Not that I haven’t been cooking and eating, of course. I’ve even remained relatively mindful of my actions. I just haven’t put any words to the experience. Until now.

My CSA program (with Tolstoy Farms) started up for the season back in early June, reminding me again that I need to learn more about how to use radishes. These crisp and often pungent little roots are a regular part of the weekly box—especially when the weather stays cool, as it did for much of June here. I’ve sliced them up and sprinkled them into my salads, of course, but that seems like such a cliché. (And not every salad needs or wants a radish.) I found recipes for sautéed radishes, but I haven’t sampled them yet. I did add a few leaves from the radish tops to a sauté of greens last week, and they blended in with the rest of the greens just fine. A couple of weeks ago, a friend served chunks of raw radish on a platter with smoked salmon (wild Alaskan sockeye, I think), and it was both surprising and delicious—the cool, crunchy zip of the radish made a great foil for the slightly salty and oily fish.

June radishes

This week’s challenge? Turnips. Got two fist-sized turnips this week, one pink, one white, along with the greens. I think I’ll just cook up the greens in the classic Southern style, but I’m not sure about the turnips. When I got baby turnips a couple of weeks ago, I just ate them raw—like the radishes. These specimens are good and fresh, but they’re bigger, and I’m thinking they might be better cooked. I sense research in my future.

Yesterday I visited Spokane Family Farm, the area’s only small-production dairy, with Deb Di Bernardo of Roast House Coffee. Deb talked with dairy co-owner Trish Vieira about ways that their two businesses—both built at the intersection of sustainability and food—might be able to work together. I mainly nodded and smiled and took pictures. Listening to Trish describe what they’re trying to do is like being on the receiving end of an informational fire hose, so I was glad to not be taking notes. A lot of facts washed right past me, but I came away impressed with the operation and with the care that Trish and her husband are putting into the product. And those Holstein babies are just so dang cute!

The dairy sells whole, non-homogenized milk, by the gallon or half-gallon. Because it’s not homogenized, the cream will separate and rise to the top, so it’s possible to skim off the cream and end up with something close to a two percent product (and some tasty cream for coffee). The milk is super fresh and tastes that way—tastes the way I remember milk tasting back when I was kid, when the milkman delivered fresh, local non-homogenized milk to our door multiple times a week. The milk has a shorter shelf life than standard ultra-pasteurized supermarket brands, but if I can get my cream out of the deal, the more frequent purchases may be worth it.

Got local milk?

As Trish poured forth information about standard industrial milk production, the difficulties faced by small producers, the evils of homogenization, the limitations of organic certification, the health benefits of minimally processed milk, and so on, I realized just how little I know about dairy and dairy production. If I’m going to make good, mindful decisions about my consumption of milk, butter and cheese, then I have a lot to learn. In the meantime, I’ll choose this small local producer as my default.

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