Posts filed under ‘Organic Eats’
Are you into adventurous and sustainable eating? Then you’ll go absolutely crazy for “The Perennial Plate,” an online documentary series that follows activist and chef Daniel Klein as he celebrates real food in America.
I just discovered “The Perennial Plate” and have been devouring the episodes. From urban gardens to Midwestern family farms, Daniel shows how simple food produced in conscious ways transforms people, communities and, most importantly, the dinner table. And he throws in some adventures, such as catching catfish using human fists and going Arkansas frog hunting at midnight. Catch one of my favorite episodes highlighting Sweden Creek Farm’s shitake harvest below!
I am happy to report that my Back to the Roots mushroom harvest was successful! A crop of oyster mushrooms started sprouting around the eighth day, and by the twelfth day they were ready to be picked.
The Back to the Roots’ site has a ton of mushroom recipes – salads, risotto and even casseroles. I, however, chose to create my own simple, organic Mushroom and Caramelized Onion pizza recipe. See my homemade recipe below, which serves 2-3. Bon appétit!
Pizza Dough – after a busy day, I typically grab the refrigerated premade dough at Whole Foods. However, if you’re in the mood for some kneading, you can find some great recipes on AllRecipes.com or FoodNetwork.com
Oyster Mushrooms – entire harvest, washed and sliced
Yellow Onion – half of the onion, sliced
Sugar – two sizeable pinches for caramelizing onions
Mozzarella Cheese – 2 cups, shredded
Goat Cheese – 3 oz., crumbled
Olive Oil – 3 tablespoons
Basil – pinch of dried basil
Oregano – pinch of dried oregano
Pasta Sauce – 1 ½ to 2 cups
Allow dough to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over low-medium heat and sauté oyster mushrooms for 5-8 minutes. Set aside
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Spread ¾ tablespoon olive oil on pizza baking sheet and roll out dough to desired crust thickness
Rub ½ tablespoon olive oil on top of pizza dough and sprinkle oregano and basil throughout dough surface
Spread pasta sauce all over dough, stopping ½ inch from edge
Sprinkle mozzarella and goat cheese on pizza. Place in heated oven for 15-20 minutes until crust browns. At 15 minutes, pull out pizza and add sautéed mushrooms for remaining 5 minutes
As soon as pizza is in the oven, heat 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil over low-medium heat and throw in onion slices. After 5 minutes, add two sizeable pinches of sugar. Continue stirring for another 15-20 minutes until caramelized
Pull out pizza and add caramelized onions. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve
It doesn’t get any more local than this. With foraging spots in the City becoming more limited (and risky if you aren’t a pro), most of us have had to abandon our fantasies of mushroom picking in Golden Gate Park and instead opt for grocery store or farmers’ market ‘shrooms. However, there’s a new alternative for mushroom seekers – a home-growing starter kit by Back to the Roots.
I came across the mushroom kit while shopping last week at Whole Foods. Conceived by two University of California, Berkeley business students, the Back to the Roots biz model seeks to use waste in a profitable way. The kit uses nutrient-rich discarded coffee grounds sourced from Peet’s Coffee & Tea to grow fresh mushrooms at home for multiple harvests (typically 2-3). After that, replacement bags are available.
The harvesting process is minimal and easy. After cutting slits and soaking the bag for 24 hours, all you need to do it mist the soil two times a day. In about 10 days, a crop of mushrooms should appear. I’m on Day 7 (mushroom tops are starting to pop up!) and will be posting an update on Day 12. Considering this kit is a favorite of top foodies, including up-and-coming star vegan chef Chloe Coscarelli and renown restaurateur Alice Waters, I think I’m in good company.
Back to the Roots mushroom kit is available online and at Whole Foods Market stores across the nation. I purchased mine at the Whole Foods on Haight Street. A starter kit is $19.99 and replacements are $7.99, though it looks like you have to email the company directly to request the replacement for now.
Love the wake-me-up aroma of coffee but hate the caffeine jitters? We’ve all heard that green tea is a gentler, energy-boosting substitute, but sometimes you just need something a little stronger. Though I do treat myself to an organic Bluebottle mocha as a Monday morning treat, I’ve found a wonderful alternative to coffee for the remainder of the week – Numi’s Puerh tea blends.
Puerh, which is an ancient fermented tea touted for its healing properties, contains 32 percent more antioxidants than green tea and has a richer, malty flavor that will satisfy coffee-craving taste buds. Numi’s organic Puerh leaves come from wild-harvested tea trees that are up to 500 years old, and are fermented for 60 days (though, according to Numi, Puerh can also be compressed into bricks and aged, like fine wine, for months, years or even decades). Add in the fact that Puerh’s caffeine punch reportedly lowers cholesterol and normalizes metabolism, and you’ve got a tasty beverage that promotes overall wellbeing.
I had the chance to sample the Chocolate Puerh at Numi’s tasting room in Oakland and the smell was intoxicating and unique. However, for a more day-to-day tea, I ended up purchasing the organic Magnolia Puerh, which I highly recommend. While still rich in flavor, the taste is smoother and balanced – and I can drink multiple cups a day without feeling like I’ve had too much. An additional perk: each tea bag can be brewed up to five times.
For diehard coffee drinkers, Numi has created “The Two-Week Pu-erh Challenge.” The gist? Switch your daily mug of java to a cup of Puerh for two weeks and see how you feel. I have a hunch you’ll be pleased with the results…and the absence of coffee breath.
Who would’ve thought a calming oasis exists right off a busy freeway in Oakland. Amidst warehouses and concrete buildings lie the headquarters and tasting room of local tea company Numi. Founded in 1999 and run by brother-and-sister duo Ahmed and Reem, the inspiration for Numi was driven by their passion for tea, which included fond memories of a cultural tradition of drinking a dry desert lime tea as children, and the need to tap into their creative spirits. From the unique mixtures (green tea and brown rice, black tea and vanilla) to the artwork for the packaging (Ahmed takes pictures that Reem transforms into art), the homegrown business is leaving its mark on the tea scene.
Housed in a former cotton mill with intact caverns still winding their way underground, the company is one of the top three importers of fair-trade product in North America. With tea leaves coming from all over – Rooibos from Africa, Puerh from China and Chamomile from Egypt, to name a few – Numi’s conscientious business model not only brings quality, organic tea to customers, but also ensures that tea farmers are paid a livable wage 30-40% higher than what they receive from tea traders.
Numi’s twist on the triple bottom line objective – People, Planet and Pure Tea – isn’t fancy green marketing speak. It’s real, and one of the best examples of a sustainable business I’ve come across. Numi sources organic, fair-trade tea leaves that are of the highest quality, which is possible as the quality control department visits suppliers frequently. Since the company doesn’t do business with traders, there’s no guessing game as to where the product comes from. Numi knows it has the coveted leaves and buds in its tea bags.
It doesn’t stop there. Numi also does not use any oils or flavorings in its product lines. I didn’t even know this was a common practice until I checked the ingredients of the mainstream tea I had lying around. Sure enough, there were natural flavors, oils and even dyes listed on the package. That tea was promptly composted.
Numi’s green consciousness also extends to its packaging (100% recycled material, soy ink-based, no cellulose plastic – it’s even GMO-free) and its support of local communitea organizations. If you haven’t guessed by now, this company is undoubtedly my cup of tea. I’ll be posting a review of my favorite Numi teas later in the week, so get ready to start brewing!
If you a have a bottle of biodymanic vino lying around, grab it! It’ll pair nicely with the final guest in my Greenista chat series: Sue Conley, co-founder of Cowgirl Creamery –a Point Reyes-based company that makes delicious artisan cheese.
Sue is a restaurateur-turned-cheesemaker. She opened the successful diner Bette’s Oceanview Diner in Berkeley in 1982 with her husband, and co-authored a cookbook featuring the restaurant’s menu. Eleven years later she decided to make the switch from pancakes to cheese. She relocated to Point Reyes and started Cowgirl Creamery, which now has two stands in the San Francisco Ferry Building (I stop by frequently for their tasty and unique breakfast sandwiches) and sells a selection of their signature cheeses to Whole Foods and other Bay Area gourmet spots. If you haven’t tried Cowgirl Creamery, you must! It is the ultimate treat (their Mt. Tam cheese is a frequent indulgence in my household).
So whether you’re vying to be a small food producer or are curious about the life of a cheesemaker, read on for Sue’s insight into cooking up your own business.
What inspired you to start Cowgirl Creamery? Have you always had a passion for cheese?
I have a passion for small food businesses, cooking and farmland preservation. Cheese is the best vehicle for bringing these things together.
How would you describe the mission (or higher purpose) of Cowgirl Creamery?
Cowgirl Creamery is committed to the production, sale and distribution of artisan and farmstead cheese. The higher purpose is to help small producers, including ourselves, survive and thrive in the marketplace. This will help support small farms, which will help preserve agricultural lands in perpetuity.
In business, it’s important to find and nurture strong alliances and relationships. How did you meet your business partner Peggy Smith and what is your team dynamic like?
Peggy and I met in college. Our division of labor/responsibility is divided in the following way: Peggy is in charge of wholesale and retail sales, and is our de-facto COO. I am in charge of production and marketing, and am the de-facto CEO. One of my friends once described me as the “gas pedal” and Peggy as “the brakes.”
Starting a business, especially a food-related business, is hard. What obstacles and challenges have you met and overcome?
Financing and compliance with permits and regulations have been our two biggest challenges. We have financed this business with our own money, loans from friends, and family and bank loans. Last year we took in equity money from individuals.
We have also developed good relationships with government officials and have used our county representatives and UC Davis Ag advisors as resources, along with non-profits including the American Cheese Society and the California Artisan Cheese Guild.
After you initially came up with the idea of Cowgirl Creamery, how long was it until you began producing and selling your cheese?
Three years…due to delays in bank financing and county permitting.
Now that you’ve seen tremendous growth, have the production methods and sourcing of ingredients for your cheese changed? If so, how have they changed?
Not too much. We built a new creamery in Petaluma that is closer to good roads and affordable housing. The new creamery has larger vats and they are elevated, so we don’t have to lift the curds out of the vat and into the forms, but instead they flow with the help of gravity into the forms. This saves backs, but the process is exactly the same as in our original creamery in Point Reyes.
Though we have slowly grown over the years, we are still a very small producer of artisan cheese. We make approximately 1,000 pounds of cheese per day. The largest commodity cheesemaker in America, Hillmar, produces 1 million pounds of cheese per day.
Your cheese is now sold all throughout San Francisco – at Whole Foods and even at my local bakery Arizmendi. How many stores do you currently have contracts with?
We have no contracts with stores. We sell to approximately 500 restaurants and 300 retail stores, primarily in the SF Bay Area. The average value of a delivery is $100.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I work in Petaluma on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Point Reyes on Mondays and Wednesdays and San Francisco on Fridays and Saturdays. Once per quarter I travel to Washington DC to check on our store there. My day usually entails 4 hours on my computer, 2 hours in meetings and 2 hours on marketing projects. I also serve on the board of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust and the Sonoma County Agriculture and Open Space District.
Why is it important to source locally and how do you choose your suppliers?
It is important for quality control and consistency in supply. It’s all about forging long, trusting relationships that are mutually beneficial. We are distributors and producers of artisan cheese. The other artisan cheese that we sell is sourced primarily from the US (80%) and 20% from small producers in Europe…Global/Local. We know our dairies and our cheesemakers.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs looking to start their own artisanal food company?
Be prepared to work hard for small margins. There will be a big return in satisfaction for a product that is delicious and well made.