Ethnic Cooking with Local Ingredients

My CSA share included peas, cilantro, potatoes and eggs. This sent me immediately to the recipes I learned from my Indian cooking teacher, Sunita. I took lessons from her for about 10 years. I love just about any cuisine EXCEPT what my mom cooked. Why? Her people are of Dutch origin, and Dutch cooking is about the most boring meat-and-potatoes cuisine you could ever imagine. I love spices. Savory, pungent, hot, you name it. After college I signed up for cooking classes for Asian, Indian and even Ethiopian cuisine. Sunita’s recipes had the advantage of simplicity. She was a traditional Indian bride. Her husband was working in the US and came to India to find a bride. She met him once, approved of the match, and in the space of just a few days she had to learn to cook basic recipes her new husband would expect served when she moved to the US. As she went back to India on vacations, she learned to use more and varied spices.

I could never be a complete locavore, as there are things you just can’t grow in our climate – such a coffee and several spices. I would love to grow a small curry tree, as the true curry leaf is essential in the flavor of several Indian dishes. But they need a tropical climate, so I rely on Indian stores to bring them in from Florida. I had been shopping at Indian stores in Beaverton and Tigard, but was very happy to discover one only a mile from my new house in Vancouver. She had curry leaves and the naan bread I love to have with anda bhurji (eggs and potatoes).

First, I made aloo matar gobi with the local potatoes, peas, and cauliflower. I got the cauliflower at my CSA, but I believe she got it from elsewhere and labeled it as such. It was sitting in my refrigerator for three weeks as I hadn’t yet figured out what I wanted to do with it. But this dish is delicious and requires a minimum of “foreign spices.”

Aloo Matar Gobi Recipe

Aloo Matar Gobi

I was very happy to start getting eggs from my CSA. One dish my friends all clamor for when we go for a weekend getaway is anda bhurji – spiced potatoes and eggs. It is essential to have curry leaves for this dish. I discovered in reading that I should be able to freeze the fresh leaves and they will retain some of their flavor. The flavor is released when you add them to the hot oil as you brown the cumin seeds and onions. I figure I may have to use more of the frozen leaves, but otherwise I’d be wasting most of the bag of leaves. They are like bay leaves and will keep for a couple of weeks just in the refrigerator. But my husband only relishes Indian dishes maybe once a month, so I am slower to use them when cooking for two. As for me, I could probably eat Indian food solid for…10 years maybe… Anda bhurji is very easy to make and I used the local potatoes, eggs, and cilantro. I leave out the onions when cooking for my husband as he can’t tolerate them. I used canned tomato sauce as my tomatoes are still green on the vine.

Anda Bhurji Recipe

Anda Bhurji

You may be able to see why my husband only wants these dishes once a month – they look almost identical. And in learning recipes from one teacher, the spices are similar in many ways.

Kings Raven Wine

At our July 5 party, one couple brought a wine from a winery naught but a kilometer from their house in Oregon City, Kings Raven. I opened it to allow it to breathe while we drank the other local wines I had selected: Anne Amie Pinot Noir, Rex Hill Pinot Noir, Four Graces Pinot Blanc, and August Cellars Pinot Noir. But my husband sampled it soon after it was uncorked and pronounced that the Kings Raven tasted of “smoky pickles.” I let it breathe another half hour before tasting it. Yes, the vegetable tones were there. It definitely didn’t have the cherry tones of a Dundee Hills pinot noir. Apparently, Kings Raven has an organic Marechal Foch wine. We didn’t think the pinot noir was bad, just interesting. It seemed more like the earthy, vegetal California pinots I’ve tried. I far prefer the Dundee Hills pinots. Luckily – they are local!

Update: The Kings Raven folks have asked that I give them another try, as they think something must have been wrong with the bottle we had. So, in November 2009 I bought another bottle of the 2006 Kings Raven Pinot Noir. The smoky pickles flavor was gone. Instead, it’s a very nice pinot noir with a pleasant flavor. Of interest is that we went wine tasting in Dundee the same weekend and found another winery who poured us a pour of pinot that tasted like dill pickles.

I spent at least a half hour washing the beet greens. I saved the beet roots for roasting the next day, as I didn’t want the house to smell of beets for the party. I made my acclaimed spaetzle, boiled in the chicken broth I made from my pasture-fed chicken carcass. The party was a success, and Cathy gave me tips on deadheading my rhododendrons.


Kelso Farmers Market

I downloaded and compiled a list of all of the local farmers markets and color-coded them by day of the week. There are only a few that are open on Sunday. My walking buddy Will and I were looking for a farmers market to tie into a walk and saw that Kelso was held on Sunday. We visited it two years ago during a Kelso Scottish festival walk. The Kelso year-round walk is a dull route along the top of the dike, weaving under and around I-5. But the nearby Longview year-round walk is a gem, strolling along Lake Sacajawea and through charming neighborhoods. We picked up the instructions and enjoyed the stroll through Longview. We planned to stop at the Kelso farmers market, but in driving around it to park, we didn’t see much to browse. They had perhaps 10 tables of crafts, plants, and it appeared to be one produce vendor. I remembered it being a smaller affair, but I think that perhaps vendors are more attracted to the Longview farmers market on Saturday or the big Vancouver Farmers Market. Sad to say, we decided just to drive by. It still would be a pleasant stop if we were doing a walk or I wasn’t already well-stocked with produce.

Vancouver Farmers Market July 5

The Vancouver Farmers Market is really hopping now. It is open both Saturday and Sunday. We started the Vancouver USA’s volksmarch from Esther Short Park next to the Farmer’s Market. I was fascinated by the clean-up already done from the carnage of the 4th of July celebrants. Volunteers groups and community service servers were out collecting any bit of trash. What a joy to live in a place that takes pride in having fun but leaving no trace! My walking cohorts were a bit behind schedule, so I took the opportunity to buy Rainier cherries and potatoes from an organic farmer from Pasco, Washington. He had a Russian accent and told how his family used to pick the cherries themselves, but found that one Mexican picker could do the job far more efficiently.

After the walk, I first bought a bowl of jambalaya from the Gumbo Goddess booth. I love their spicy jambalaya and it’s now always my first choice.


I browsed all of the booths before buying bright red Vann cherries and a bunch of beets. I was disappointed that none of the usual bread booths were there, as I wanted a loaf of bread for my party in the evening. I was about to exit when I noted the Hmong Farm booth. They also had lovely beets, at the great price of $1 each. I bought five bunches and decided we’d have beet greens with the pork loin at the party.

While I’d been disappointed with the variety of produce booths the past few weeks, I see now that it was just because there wasn’t much produce yet to sell!

BBQ in the 'Couv

I am interested in finding restaurants that use locally-sourced meat and produce. But my preliminary explorations online found only a couple of Vancouver restaurants on the Foodshed PDX list. It appears that blog is going inactive, however.

But it is also of value to patronize small local restaurants vs. chains. I miss the Aloha Grill in Tualatin. It’s locally owned and the Aloha Beef was to die for. We’ve explored a few teriyaki places in Vancouver but I haven’t found a good substitute.

Rich still often stops at Buster’s Texas-Style BBQ in Tigard on his weekly jaunts to Tualatin. It’s small locally-owned chain. In fact, Buster himself and I were both clients of the same exercise trainer, as was Horst Mager of the local Rheinlander German restaurants. I’m a big fan of Rheinlander as well.

Meanwhile back in the ‘Couv (short for Vancouver). We’ve found two barbecue joints that are both located inside convenience stores. Pig Heaven is located at the corner of St. John’s and Minnehaha. For the cost of a sandwich elsewhere, you can get a wrap with (I swear) about a pound of barbecue in it – pork, beef, or chicken. But their only choice of bbq sauce is pretty spicy. I like it, but a little too hot for my husband. The Columbian advertiser mailer arrived on Monday with a review of Goldies Texas Style Barbeque, just a little over a mile away at NE Fourth Plain and 112th. It’s located inside a Shell station’s convenience store, with no seating available, just take-out. I picked up two pulled pork sandwiches with the mild sauce and they were delicious. They also have hot sauce. And they give out cards to stamp and get a free sandwich eventually. These are the sort of honest 1-2 person businesses that deserve support.

I’m cooking a lot more nowadays and eating out less. I love to eat out, but it’s a good principle to choose a locally-owned, non-chain restaurant. We’ve been watching “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” and just get a hankering for some bbq and burgers.

Hillsdale Farmers Market

On Sunday, I discovered myself heading back from the Livestrong Challenge with lots of morning to spare. I had made up a list of all of the local farmers markets and color coded them by day of the week to keep in the car for just this chance. I was interested in the Hillsdale Farmers Market, held at Wilson High School, as there is a pasture-fed chicken outfit, Kookoolan Farms, that sells at that market. I arrived just before their 10 am opening time, which would appear to be none too early. The market soon filled up with eager shoppers.

Hillsdale Farmers Market

I was impressed with the number of produce booths and a couple of cheese booths. I would have bought a lot more but I only had a limited amount of cash. I started at the Kookoolan Farms booth and selected a small broiler hen from the ice chest. They also had medium sized hens and some breast-only portions and neck-only portions good for making chicken stock. I have rarely roasted a whole bird. Mom was raised on a chicken farm and did not enjoy cooking or eating chicken. But she usually would buy a whole fryer chicken and cut it into pieces herself. I was happy enough that the bird was fully prepared and basically ready to roast. I also bought a dozen eggs. Kookoolan Farms raises and hand-processes its own poultry, one of only four farms in Oregon licensed and inspected to do their own processing. In the summer, the poultry feed outside. This was exactly the sort of humanely raised poultry I was interested in. The farm is located in Yamhill, Oregon, just a hop skip and jump from my family’s stomping grounds. I finished my trip with a tamale from Salvador Molly’s booth and headed home to cook the bird.

Kookoolan Chicken

I started by brining the bird in 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar for four hours. My roasting didn’t go as well as I hoped. The grill thermometer doesn’t work well, so I think I was cooking it on an even lower temperature than I wanted to. It took about two hours to cook but finally the meat thermometer said it was at the safe temperature. I also roasted the beets I bought on Saturday and we had a nice salad. Altogether, it was the most completely local meal I’ve ever made. My husband thought the chicken tasted as good as European rotisserie chicken. I thought it was good, but I don’t think my roasting job was as good as it could have been. Mostly, my husband prefers cut-up chicken pieces, preferably boneless. Next time I’ll pay extra for the breast portions and then also get the bag of necks to use for making chicken stock.

The leftovers went into the crockpot to make chicken stock. This will be perfect as I plan to make spaetzle this weekend, which I boil in chicken broth.

Laura Dolson explains the difference between cage-free, free-range, and pasture-fed chicken. My grandfather’s chicken barn was cage-free. The chickens had roosts for egg laying, but they mostly milled around in a large barn. We grandkids didn’t go into the main part of the barn as the flying and pecking chickens were pretty intimidating.