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Spring is here in Central Oregon and to me, that means lighter meals like big salads for lunch and dinner with bright dressings featuring fruits and herbs.
This spring take on the traditional cobb salad fits the bill! Celebrate vegetables that bridge winter and spring, like beets and spring onions, and fresh additions that are just coming in season, like asparagus. Here, instead of the traditionally used bacon, I wrapped the asparagus with prosciutto and blasted it under the broiler for a couple minutes. The salad greens get a spring twist too; spinach, green leaf, and chopped raw bok choy make the perfect bed for the array of veggies on top.
Did you know that you can eat bok choy raw? Bok choy is perfect in a salad with its crunchy stalks and soft, tender leaves. You may never cook it again!
A couple of local eggs (which Agricultural Connections can also supply) are a rich treat and add some protein to this salad. Top it all off with a bright, lemony vinaigrette flecked with fresh dill, and you’ve got a crave-worthy lunch!Spring Cobb Salads:
8-10 Asparagus Spears
4 oz prosciutto, sliced lengthwise
4 large handfuls assorted salad greens (washed and chopped) such as spinach, green leaf, and bok choy
½ cup sliced red spring onion
1 avocado, sliced
3 beets, roasted, peeled and cut into cubes
2 hard-boiled local eggs, quartered
1/4 cup shredded Colby jack cheese
Lemon Dill Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Bread for serving (optional)
Lemon Dill Vinaigrette:
1-2 tablespoons chopped red spring onion
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoons local honey
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¾ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
Combine the onion, mustard, honey, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and lemon juice in a blender. Pulse a few times, then add turn on and add the olive oil in steady stream. Taste the dressing and add more salt, pepper, honey or lemon juice to taste. Stir in the fresh dill.
Note: This can be made one week ahead of time and stored in the fridge.
Make the prosciutto wrapped asparagus: Preheat your broiler to high and place the asparagus spears on a large baking sheet. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. With a half slice of prosciutto, wrap the asparagus starting just under the scaled tip, and continue down in a spiral.
For the salads:
Broil 3-4 minutes, then flip the asparagus over on the sheet and broil for another 3 minutes until golden brown and crispy. Set aside while you assemble the salads.
In each salad bowl, place a large handful of the mixed greens. On top of the greens, lay the sliced onion, sliced avocado, cubed beets, shredded cheese, and add two egg quarters. Place two asparagus spears on top and drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Serve with bread or toast if desired.
Farmland begins as an open canvas; it’s identity ultimately forged by the values of those tending the fields. The practical minded farmer approaches their land as a capital resource, and is managed to efficiently meet the demands of prominent crop markets. This form of agriculture is built as an economy of scale and supplies our export markets, feeds livestock and supplies the majority of food to wholesalers around the nation. A more romantic approach to farming, from the naturalist, tends to view land, not as a resource, but as an organism. Yes, the economics of running a business are major consideration, but are almost subservient to the goal of fostering a complete ecosystem. Oftentimes products from these farms are more diverse, but created at a much smaller scale than their commercial cousins. Food from these operations is often grown to sell at local farmers markets or directly to select restaurants. In between these two distal ends of agriculture exits a rich nexus of farms varying in scale, scope and long term goals.
When Audrey Tehan first approached food it was through a different vein. Her primary mission is neither economic or ecological; instead, the focus of Seed to Table, her creation, is community, and how to build a stronger one.
The hard work of a well-intentioned farmer can be lost in a world of priority if their surrounding community cannot afford or understand what is grown around them. For many, it is hard to rationalize buying local food when the prices are higher and seasons dictate what is available.
Without a local community who embraces and understands the real challenges of farming, it is difficult for such an industry to thrive. To approach that very challenge. Audrey and Seed to Table founded three guiding principals, around which the operation runs.
The first goal is Access.
Local food is often accompanied by the stigma that it is a luxury good; ‘people who have the money can afford to buy on principal, the rest of us have to do what makes sense’. Seed to Table works hard to break this pre-conception. They are one of the only farms that I have ever encountered that lists food bank donations and discount farmers markets as prominent avenues to share their produce. To them, the only way to get more food grown in Sisters and in Central Oregon, is if more people get their hands on local produce and develop an appreciation for the value of wholesome ingredients. Most any farm is left with unsold produce in the field, due to either lackluster demand, or physical blemishes. There is really no sense in allowing this valuable crop go to waste. This is why Seed to Table works with food banks; to turn waste into a community asset, for the good of the community.
People inherently become more invested in what they learn, and education through experience cultivates that knowledge as a sense of identity. For years now there has been much proselytizing as how we, as a culture, all owed our food system to become an industrial entity? A powerful answer to this question is that we, as a culture, have disconnected from food production as a piece of our identity. Audrey drove to use Seed to Table as a medium to rebuild that identity by starting up a Farming class in Sisters high school. The curriculum for the course balances components of economics, soil science, biology and turning compost. The intention is not to make a farmer out of every student. Rather, the goal to instil a foundation of knowledge for subjects like soil science, environmental science, biology, and nutrition, so that students and parents may better understand the complexity of what they put in their body. Since classrooms can feel a little stuffy, Seed to Table also makes sure that their curriculum gets people outside with their hands in the dirt and show them what all of this information looks like in real life.
The third goal is to Expand the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables sold in Sisters, which arises naturally though the success of education and access.
As their classes grow and more interns flock to learn through work, the ability of Seed to Table to supply school lunch programs, food banks and farmers markets grows as well. Ideally, their efforts in education, outreach and community development will open up some opportunity for neighboring farms, like Mahonia Gardens or Radicle Roots, as well.
There are a lot of farms that are closed enterprises. They have land, employees, crops and market stands; but most people can only approach them as a customer. And there exists a void where you can’t quite understand what it is that goes on at a farm. At that point, how are you to make out the difference between their Broccoli and Broccoli in the grocery store that was grown 500 miles away?
The second goal is Education.
There are a lot of farms that are closed enterprises. They have land, employees, crops
It is really a beautiful sight to watch the three goals of Seed to Table come into confluence and break down that void. The doors there are open, the customer, the community, is their farm. Summer workers are young interns out on a break from school, there to learn with their hands. As summer turns to fall, the interns are replaced with buzzing energy generated by droves of students from Sister’s Elementary. There they are out in the field, helping harvest winter squash, while learning how to store and cure produce for the winter. All the while, the squash and kale they pluck from the field is taken over to the food shelf to supply a hot stew as the days turn colder. For them, every step in the farming process is met with the smiling face of someone who just became more than a consumer. They might not be trying to make a farmer out of everyone they teach, but a little bit of the farm has a way of rubbing off once you experience it.
Written by: Peter Elmore