Friday, November 19, 2010

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Pie

Today, November 19th, marks the anniversary of the premier of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest film by brilliant director Milos Forman.
I just moved to Salem, Oregon, a few hours away from Ken Kesey's hometown of Springfield, Oregon. Salem is also home to the Oregon State Mental Hospital where they filmed the classic flick back in the 70'.

Interestingly, Salem just unveiled the new Oregon State Mental hospital to replace the 127-year old hospital where the film was set. It's a far cry from how the film portrays the hospital. It's a state-of-the-art space where patients will receive some of the best treatment available.

One night after watching One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, I decided to bake a pie in honor of the movie.. and what did I use as main ingredients?... duh, nuts and banannas!

Here's my rough recipe:

I heated up sugar, carmelizing it, then added butter, chocolate chips, a bit of cinnamon and cardamom and poured the mixture over whole walnuts, which gave them a toffee-like flavor.

I chopped up the toffee-coated walnuts and put them on the bottom of a pie crust and then added ripe banannas.

I made a quick custard with eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla and milk and poured it over the top of the pie then sprinkled cinnamon over the top.

When I make this pie again, I plan to use milk from the Springfield Creamery, the creamery that produces Nancy's Yogurts, and is Kesey's original dairy run by Ken Kesey's older brother Chuck, his wife Sue and their son Kit and daughter Sheryl. Read this Seattle Times article Counter Culture about the different lives Ken and Chuck lived and the Springfield Dairy.

Then I cooked the pie until the banannas were soft and pie crust brown.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Windfall of Apples
This fall, my brother Brig took it upon himself to keep as many Southern Idaho apples from rotting on the ground as is humanly possible. He enlisted his whole family as apple-picking agents and also recruited me to join his special forces!

He and his wife Missy loaded their family in the van, picked up me and mom, and drove through the back roads of Idaho looking for neglected apple trees for apple picking. My brother's neighbor had built an apple cider press and a few families in his neighborhood had planned to get together and press cider.

It's amazing how many apples go to waste. Delicious, wild apples from trees that are neglected. Many people just get busy and don't take the time to pick their apples. Perhaps year after year they just get tired of picking and making oddles of apple products with their harvest, so trees go neglected.

But there's something a little sad to me about seeing rotting apples on the ground when there are people who go hungry and when it costs a few bucks a pound to buy apples in the store.

Here's my sister-in-law, Missy, standing by some waxy looking conventional apples.

So, here was Brig's strategy: 1) FIND a tree that's bulging with apples (with apples littering the ground near the trunk) 2) KNOCK on the door of the closest neighboring home. 3) ASK politely to pick the apples, offering the landowner a bushel.

I'm taking this photo from inside the van where we wait to see if we can descend on this guy's trees like a swarm of hungry locusts. Brig is talking to a friendly farmer who said, "sure, take as many as you want, just leave me a bag on my front porch!"

My brother and mother decided to be the tree climbers. It was pretty great to see my 60-something year old mom high in a tree.

Missy is reaching up to pick a lovely apple!

My nephew Dylan has no fear, he was trying to get as high up in the tree as possible. He's part monkey, like this monkey guy.

We collected about 3 large rectangular tubs full of apples, loaded them in the back, then headed home to where we'd press the apples into cider!

We took off the leaves and washed the apples.

This cute guy is my boyfriend Andrew (the one in the background, not the chicken). When Andrew was not distracted by the novelty of feeding Brig's dancing chickens out of his hand, he was helping turn the wheel that pressed the apples into cider!

Pressing cider is a very manly activity!

My sister Cara is helping the kids throw the apples into a hand-cranked grinder.

So what you do, is throw the apples in a little opening in the press that has a nobbly wheel inside, that turns the apples into pulp.

My favorite part of the press is this wonderfully sweet foam!!

What is left after you press out the juice!

This is Brig holding up fresh beer, er, I mean cider. YUM!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Skinny on Real Milk
Oregon dairyman sells cow shares in order to give customers raw milk

Two guys who know cows: Mike Duggan (on the left) raises cattle on 100 percent grass for beef on 200 acres at D&D Ranch in Terrabonne, a beautiful place close to Smith Rock State Park near Bend, Oregon. Beside him stands Bill Sieburg, the dairyman from Central Oregon Jersey Farm in La Pine who sells cow shares in order to offer locals raw, unpasteurized milk.

A cow looks up from grazing on grass near Mike Duggan's farm, with a view of Smith Rock in the background.

(Mike also sells this yummy honey produced by bees on his ranch.)

I spent a week in Bend, Oregon searching for "real" food and discovered what I think is one of the region's food gems: "real" milk. Pasture-fed, unprocessed and full-fat milk produced by purebred jersey cows from Central Oregon Jersey Farm. Billy Sieburg, the dairyman there, sells milk to people who come to the farm in La Pine and delivers the milk to CSA's in Redmond and Bend. I met Billy at the Agricultural Connections CSA created by Andrew Adams (in photo below:)

Andrew, above, sells produces and milk from the Bend CSA he created, that offers Bend locals food from a 100-mile radius from the West, down in the Willamette Valley all the way to Madras in the Northeast.

In Oregon it's illegal to sell raw milk, (the FDA is concerned about the risk of the milk carrying pathogens that cause disease) so the only way you can get it is to buy a cow and drink milk your cow produces. That's why the farmers at Central Oregon Jersey's Farm sells cow shares, enabling consumers to BUY A COW on their farm, allowing them to own a share of the herd.

Most commercial milk comes from breeds of modern holsteins bred so that they can produce three times as much milk as the old-fashioned cows. Basically, we've created a kind of Franken-cow that produces lots more milk to keep up with our consumption. But the milk is lower quality and the cows also tend to get sicker more easily (with mastititis, etc.)

Sieburg says he sells his buttery milk to people who are lactose intolerant. He says he's found that these folks can tolerate raw milk. He's a part of a movement that try to bring "real milk" back to the people. For more info, visit this Website dedicated to education about real milk. Local Bend or La Pine residents can contact Billy Sieburg at (541) 420-9599 or
email hims at
If you look closely at Sieberg's milk, you can see that a third of it is CREAM. YUM! Sign me up! One guy at the CSA where it was sold said it tastes like honey has been whipped into it.

There's a debate about the health of pasteurized verses unpasteurized milk, but some studies have linked pasteurized milk with lactose intolerance, allergies, asthma, frequent ear infections, gastro-Intestinal problems, diabetes, auto-Immune disease, attention deficit disorder and constipation, among other problems.

I'm a fan of raw milk. I've been off commercial cow's milk for ten years when I discovered I had a life-long allergy to milk, cheese and dairy products (something I'd suffered from since I was a child). The allergy caused me to feel like I had a constant sinus infection and after eating lots of milk, I'd even get vertigo. I now only eat goat's milk and sheep's milk and cheese or yogurt and feel great! But I have yet to try unpasteurized cow's milk myself. I'll have to try it and report back.

Monday, May 31, 2010

It's Fennel and High School Prom Season
Go ahead, make their day with a bouquet of fennel... or just make a salad with it :)

Will you be my date for the prom?? Ross Carrick, all dressed up for senior prom, contemplates giving his date a handful of pretty fennel stalks with feathery fronds. Instead Ross gave the fennel back to me and I made an egg salad with it! Fennel season corresponds with high school graduation. For a grad picnic, consider make egg salad using fennel instead of celery.

CELERY IS BORING- TRY FENNEL INSTEAD! I love how fresh fennel is... it imparts a slight licorice taste to things, but is so subtle, you can use it in place of celery.

You can eat every part of the fennel plant from the bulbous bottom, to the stalks to the feathery fronds.

Here's a recipe for fennel egg salad from I left out the Dijon mustard... I wanted to taste mostly the fennel.

8 large eggs
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 fennel bulb, finely chopped (1 cup), plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped fronds

Cover eggs with cold water in a medium saucepan. Cook eggs, uncovered, at a gentle boil 10 minutes. Pour off hot water. Shake pan gently so eggs bump one another (to crack shells). Run cold water into pan to stop cooking. Let eggs stand in cold water 15 minutes, adding more water to keep cold.

Mince and mash garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt. Whisk together with mayonnaise, lemon juice, zest, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Chop eggs and stir into dressing with fennel and fronds.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Sybaris Spring
What Chef Matt Bennett is Cooking up this Spring on 1st Ave in Albany, Oregon

Warm salad of fried razor clams, pickled onion, grilled asparagus and Brindisi cheese stuffed piquillo peppers on spinach and arugula with lemon-chive dressing.

Guy Savoy artichoke soup with Oregon truffles and Vella Dry Jack cheese.

Super smooth chocolate cream pie made with coconut cream and dark artisan chocolate (a favorite for me, since I'm allergic to cow's milk!).

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Culinary Heart of Albany, Oregon
Operation Sybaris is a family and community affair where locavores can discover the true taste of Willamette Valley

It’s 1 p.m., and Matt Bennett, Chef and co-owner of Sybaris restaurant on 1st street in Albany, has spent all morning meticulously stuffing beef and lamb into casings to make handmade sausage.

When I arrive in the afternoon, he's onto other tasks in the kitchen: pureeing asparagus for crab, asparagus ravioli. A pot of chicken stock and spring artichokes simmers on the stove. The smell of baking focaccia rises from the oven. Matt's caramelizing turbinado sugar in one pan, then adds heavy cream and salt, lowers the temp. and spoons up a glob of hard stringy caramel, which will slowly melt again into a sweet soup of amber cream whose next incarnation will be caramel sorbet. Matt Bennett is a chef that takes his time when cooking; he tends to his food like a doting father would care for a child.

Matt holding his daughter in the kitchen, with Mom, Janel, looking on.

Matt lifts the lid to a pot filled with broth and wedges of artichokes. He fills a pitcher with the broth, reaches into a brown paper bag full of white Oregon truffles, throws a few into the pitcher, then mixes the whole thing in a blender. He then pours it into a sieve and slowly stirs the soft green stuff with a wooden spoon until what remains is artichoke truffle soup as smooth as cream. The smells coming out of this kitchen are enough to make anyone want to stick around all day.

Matt spends all afternoon going back and forth between tasks, mixing here, blending there. His wife Janel shows up with their two daughters.

Someone calls on the phone and Matt laughs, telling me his dishwashers are on their way over-- high school seniors Jacob Garcia and Steven Hartman, who have asked Matt's permission to eat one of the ghost peppers he’s got on hand, one he uses to spice up an entire vat of sauce. But the boys plan to split the chili and down it raw. Why? “because it’s boring in Albany, and there's nothing else to do,” says Steven.

Steven, one of the dishwashers at Sybaris who decided spontaneously to show up and eat a ghost pepper after school one day.

There are many touches of family and community here: you can taste it in Matt's dishes, prepared with local produce from artisans and farmer friends at places like Spring Hill Organic Farm just over the bridge a block away. He’s an innovative chef who offers a completely different menu every month, based on what's in season. Your server might be Matt's wife, co-owner Janel Bennett.

Or you may hear echos of little girl footsteps in the restaurant from when Matt's daughters arrived earlier to visit Dad while he cooked.

Matt's family: Wife Janel and daughters sit together at Sybaris.

A couple share a glass of wine while waiting to be seated.