Dorothy Kalins: Do Some Damn Reporting!

Do some damn reporting.

Shed new light.

Think hard before you write.

These imperatives might seem like directives from a high school English professor but they were words of wisdom shared by Dorothy Kalins at the Association of Food Journalists 2016 Conference being held in Seattle this week.

Kalins is the founding editor of Saveur Magazine and her career in journalism spans decades and countless assignments. Tasked with giving the keynote presentation, Kalins started by painting a rather dark and gloomy picture of the current state of journalistic affairs.  Even though the sky was blue in Seattle yesterday, clouds wafted throughout the room.

Kalins played hard ball. She reminded us of the cataclysmic shifts in journalism and how we are all being asked to produce far more content in far shorter time frame. She assured us that we aren’t crazy for thinking we are working in a difficult climate and reiterated what we all already knew: The old rules do not apply.

She said we live in a pernicious Wikipedia world where it is far too easy and tempting to scoop up what has already been written without checking what’s been written. She acknowledged that this difficult environment lets us down as journalists because getting it out is often more “important” than getting it right.

Even though the reality was tough to swallow, Kalins wrapped up on a high note and offered inspiration. In a no nonsense tone she assured us that all isn’t lost and that we are still in the driver’s seat. She urged us to take the high road, maintain standards and expect more.  I jotted notes as quickly as I could while she talked. Here are some of her pithy tips:

  • The Personal Essay Category needs fresh thinking. Cut through the fat of personal opinion and stop the indulgence of first person journalism. Be original.
  • Do some Damn reporting!
  • Be Inspired!
  • Shed new light.
  • Think hard before you write!
  • Now more than ever, we must be our own editors. Our own task masters.
  • Internalize that voice.
  • Make that damn phone call. (Ditch the email interviews!)
  • Have that primal experience of research.
  • Get out of your chair!
  • Welcome questions

And, most importantly, she said, “We do not lose our nerve. We do what journalists have always done. We look around corners…we go out and we tell the world.”

Well said.

 

 

 

Association of Food Journalists 2016 Conference…in Seattle

Just a quick blog post to note that I am attending the Association of Food Journalists Annual Conference this week.

Held at the Seattle Sheraton today through Friday, September 23, the conference boasts a hefty lineup of speakers, tours and great topics. The conference launches this morning with a keynote address from Dorothy Kalins, the founding editor of Saveur Magazine. Kalins will discuss how to navigate today’s fast paced publishing landscape.

Later in the morning there will be presentations from AllRecipes and ChefSteps. Both will discuss how they bring recipes and techniques to the table. In the afternoon we will be treated to a lengthy insider’s tour of the historic Pike Place Market.

Tomorrow, we get Tipping Point…a discussion from Renee Erickson, Jerry Traunfeld and Tom Douglas addressing Seattle’s movement to abolish tipping.

Follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook as I post live tidbits from the conference. The hashtag is #AFJ2016. I’ll also try to write subsequent posts regarding these discussions once the conference is over and I am back at my desk. Stay tuned.

 

Easy Open Oysters!

England and Food 09 501 (2)

If you plan on serving oysters over the holiday weekend, then you might seriously consider this simple barbecue method which avoids the tedious task of wrestling and shucking.

By placing the oysters over gentle heat on the grill, the oysters open their shells and can easily be brushed with a little garlic butter. We often use this method when we are camping out at the Washington Coast or on the Olympic Peninsula, where fresh local oysters are abundant and can often be purchased directly from the growers.

Our campground method requires a little improvisation because we are cooking over an open fire and we can’t close the grill lid. Nonetheless, the oysters taste particularly awesome when made that way.

I originally gleaned this recipe from Tim Salo, who owns Puget Beach Shellfish in Olympia, Wash.

Barbecued Oysters
Servings: 6 appetizers, 2 main courses

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

12 medium oysters

Preheat grill to medium high.

In a small bowl stir together the melted butter and chopped garlic. Set aside.

Place the oysters, cup-side (larger shell) down, on the grill. Close the grill and cook 4 to 5 minutes. The oysters will start to open. The shells’ fragile edges may sputter and snap, so beware.

Once the shells have opened, carefully remove the top shell, trying not to spill the juices inside. Gently brush the oysters with the garlic butter, then grill for another 2 minutes.

For Pearfect Pears, Check the Neck!

Check the Neck Pear

As we shift from the luscious berries of summer into the more robust fruits of fall, I’d like to put in a plug for the humble pear. I know many folks favor apples at this time of year. I certainly serve a lot of them at my house. Nonetheless, there is something delightfully earthy and comforting about a pear.  They taste great on their own. They are flavorful and elegant with cheese. They work great in cozy homey desserts like tarts, crumbles, and cobblers.  They can, however, be tricky to judge for ripeness.

Have you ever bought a pear, carted it home, sliced it open and found it to be rock hard and taste less? Or, have you sliced it open only to find that it has gone bad from the inside out? Well, thanks to USA Pears, which is the Pear Bureau Northwest, I learned to tackle those problems a few years ago. On their website, they feature a tricky and successful method for checking a pear for ripeness. You simply “Check the Neck.”  To do so, you simply apply gentle pressure to the neck of the pear with your thumb. If it yields to pressure, it’s ripe and you are good to go!

Gear up with a Rice Cooker

rice cookerAre you gearing up for the back to school frenzy?

Have your children already gone back to school? If so, then I’d like to tout the benefits of the rice cooker. A hiqh-quality cooker is positively priceless on those evenings when you need to crank out dinner, but you haven’t exactly planned accordingly.

I purchased my Zojirushi about twelve years ago and even though I paid more than $200 for it back then, I am positively certain that it has saved me countless dollars. There have been many many evenings when I decide to crank out a stir fry or other random dish and then decide to use my rice cooker for the rice. I simply load the machine with basmati or medium-grain brown rice, add water, program the machine for the type of rice at hand, and then hit the ON button. The rice takes care of itself while I tackle the veggies and other tasks.

Rice is, of course, one of those dinner staples that can please many palates. It can be dressed up or down. It can be easily transformed into an Asian, Indian, or Mexican-inspired side dish. And, it can certainly act as a blank slate when you are faced with a motley collection of leftovers.

So, if the back to school frenzy has you frazzled, buy a rice cooker and load it up. It will give you more time to cook dinner, weed through paperwork, or tackle that horrific math problem!

And, rest assured that even if you can’t do that wacky new math, your rice will be perfect…every time!

The Pike Place Market Urban Garden

Don’t we all love little secret destinations? Spots that aren’t well known but have an abundance of charm? Little places that speak volumes but haven’t been discovered by the masses?

Well, that’s how I felt when I visited the Pike Place Market Urban Garden this morning. Admittedly, this 2,000 square foot garden sits in one of the city’s busiest tourist attractions–the Pike Place Market–but it is deliciously removed from the hub bub.

In 2013, the Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority and Seattle Urban Farm Company  teamed up in order to revitalize and essentially energize an underutilized patio in the market. Indeed, their efforts have created a wonderful haven amidst the hub bub of urban life.

Tucked away near Maximilien Restaurant and Market Spice, this community garden is completely run by volunteers and all of the produce is donated to the local food bank and the market senior center. Peppered with raised beds, benches, pole bean teepees, trellised gourds, cucumbers and tomatoes, this garden simultaneously oozes charm and local food! Plus the spectacular views make it a great place to sit and take a breather from the crowds at hand.

Next time you are at Seattle’s iconic and world renowned tourist attraction, visit the garden and take a few minutes to smell the herbs and savor the scenery.

Copper River Gravlax: Recipe Refresh!

Sometimes you get in a recipe rut. You make the same version of a recipe time and again. Then, there are instances when you decide you need a reboot.

You need to bust a rut and revisit your technique.

That’s exactly what happened to me last May.

I was attending the Nordic Culinary Conference at the Nordic Heritage Museum and Andreas Viestad, the author of Kitchen of Light and the host of the PBS Television series New Scandinavian Cooking was giving a demo on gravlax.  My husband and I have been making gravlax for years but I thought it would be fun to learn or explore a new technique.

Generally, when we make it we use wild salmon that has been frozen and we make it during the winter months,usually around Christmas. We also used kosher salt and follow a recipe that essentially had us “burying” the salmon in salt. The results were good but I felt they could be better.

Hello, Nordic Culinary Conference!

While discussing the history and culture of gravlax and working at a very basic set up in the museum’s gym, Andreas sparked my Gravlax Recipe Reboot! He used a far gentler hand when curing his gravlax and he discussed the merits of curing the wild salmon first and then freezing it.  Aside from neutralizing any potential health issues with eating wild salmon raw, this curing THEN freezing method also results in a superior end product because Andreas explained that the curing breaks down some of the proteins in the fish and removes excess water in the flesh before the fish is frozen.

At the end of that class we were all treated to tastings of his version. Memorable morsels indeed.

At home, I anxiously awaited the launch of Copper River sockeye season and once I could get my hands on some, I adapted Andreas’s basic gravlax recipe. While standing face to fin with my Copper River sockeye, I decided to adjust Andreas’s recipe even further. He calls for curing with dill seed and peppercorn but I left those out and wrote up my own version of the technique, using an even lighter more intuitive hand. The end product is buttery, fresh and deliciously decadent.

The sockeye gravlax slices beautifully.

It drapes like silk!

Missy Trainer’s Gravlax Recipe

Adapted from Andreas Viestad, Nordic Culinary Conference (May 2016) and Kitchen of Light.

Copyright 2016 Melissa A. Trainer

Ingredients:

1 Copper River sockeye salmon, (tested with a four pounder/2016 season), filleted, pin boned, washed and patted dry lightly with paper towels

1/3 cup fine sea salt*

2/3 cup sugar

½ large bunch fresh dill, chopped coarsely

Equipment: parchment paper, Saran Wrap, large baking dish, such as Le Creuset roasting pan, small sandwich sized Tupperware containers, and four cans of Oregon Fruit Products cherries to weight the fish

Put the sockeye fillets, flesh side up on the parchment paper.   Combine the salt and sugar in a bowl and lightly sprinkle the sockeye flesh with the mixture.

I did this about three times and between each sprinkling the cure mixture would start to dissolve. This gentle subtle sprinkling technique results in a more refined texture. In the past and in many recipes they call for just dumping the mixture on the flesh, which essentially suffocates the poor bugger! After sprinkling,  rub the mixture around a little bit to distribute it.

In my method, let the salmon talk back to ya! Let it suck up some of the salt sugar mixture and rest for a second before you “load it up” again!

After three or four sprinklings, you’ll probably have some salt/sugar cure mixture left. I didn’t use it all the first time…I just set it aside in a jam jar and saved it for the next round of fish.

Then top the salmon with the chopped dill and sandwich the two fillets together. Wrap the sandwiched fillets in Saran wrap, put in the roasting pan and weight it as evenly as you can with the Tupperware and canned cherries…or corn or beans or bricks. This compresses the salmon and helps to extract that excess water.

Refrigerate and turn daily for two to three days.  Remove the cured fish, pat it dry. Do not rinse it. Leave the fresh dill intact. Cut into eight ounce chunks or whatever size you want. (Eight ounce chunks make it easy to avoid waste and use only what you need in each sitting.)

Vacuum pack if you have a Food Saver and freeze. Remove from freezer, let defrost and cut the gravlax thinly on an angle.

Drape the gravlax slices on whole grain bread, top with Scandinavian mustard and a garnish of dill.

Gravlax Twice as Good: Leftovers? Save even the smallest leftovers and tidbits and make a Scandinavian style potato salad with fresh cooked new potatoes, sour cream/mayo combo, celery, sweet onion, fresh dill and snippets of gravlax. The best!

*Salt:  In prior seasons we always just used kosher salt  but we now know that it is way too coarse and harsh. I switched to a bulk French fine sea salt from Whole Foods, which made a huge difference as the salt melts on the flesh within seconds.