Nature: Friend and Adversary

Today is a pleasant rainy Sunday, which allows for time to slow down, read, reflect and catch up on built up chores. These calm showers provide just the sort of moisture to saturate annual row crops and helps ease the burden of irrigation for our regions farmers. However, while the weather is gentle today, there were some rather torrential periods yesterday. The thermometer is still bouncing between hot and cool, providing rather inconsistent range of air and soil temperatures; this also makes for variable forms of precipitation. Mixed in with Saturday’s precipitation were heavy bouts of hail, which as you can imagine, spells danger for vulnerable crops out in the field. During one such spell Story Hill Farm suffered a tragic loss of spring crops. Farmer Jack Bridges, and 20 others on a chicken coop tour, watched as cold chunks of hail pelted his lush vegetables. Lettuce, radishes, kale, onions, and anything else growing outside was at the whim of nature. Situations like these leave farmers feeling helpless to intervene. When the climate is cruel, there in only so much that can be done to fight it. While the damage may be done, plants often demonstrate their unabashed resilience in the wake of such an event. I have seen rows of corn and kale plowed down by heavy winds and rain, only to bounce back and continue with life when the sun reemerges from behind the clouds. Let us hope that Jack enjoys similar fortune in the wake of this storm; but, in any case this is a scary moment for any farmer and is a moment that all have endured.

Weather is the pivot around with all life hinges; it both provides life and takes it away. When climatic conditions are favorable, plants grow strong, water tables are full and human nutritional needs are met economically. When conditions shift unfavorably, plants suffer, wells are drained, yields diminish and we pay the price at the store. Rarely does a season pass without any sort of drought, flood or pest outbreak, so building resilience to these  events is constitutional to any farm economy. And we simply cannot accurately predict when those shocks will happen, nor can we anticipate how pests will adapt to conventional control. Since weather is fluid, adapting to climate patterns is an iterative process; never perfect, and always improving. Our developing passion for decentralized food markets is a part of this learning.

In the years since the Green Revolution of the 1950’s, large scale agrarian specialization has proven vulnerable to adapting to such shocks. Food systems catering to economies of scale often grow one crop variety over wide acreage. This allows for streamlined planting, cultivation and harvesting, from which consumers enjoy lower prices. But that price we enjoy is just a stagnant number at the store, and does not recognize the quieter costs we are paying. One such cost is vulnerability. While the price might be low in up front economic terms, it balances on a dangerous precipice of one storm cycle or pest outbreak from wiping out the majority of something like carrots in one region of the U.S. The price of all carrots then shifts, forcing us to then pay a scarcity price for what remains after the shock.

If you are of a business mind, think of our food system like your investment portfolio. If you just buy into  a high number of valuable shares, consolidated to one or two firms, then that investment stands vulnerable to much bigger losses when the firms suffer. Conversely, a diversified stock portfolio holds a balanced volume shares, spread horizontally across firms and vertically between businesses in the same industry. Much like diversified business investment, farmers invest in diversity to bolster security from variable weather conditions. But these are not stock and bond markets, these are farms. Farms produce food, and food is the second most basic component to fuel human life. Much hinges in how we invest in the sustainable security of our food system.

It is always sad to hear of losses in the fields. Thankfully our food portfolio is diversified here in Central Oregon, so we can continue eating spring radishes and lettuce without freighting it in from distant farms.

Follow Your Food: Radicle Roots

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon at Radicle Roots. As I had written in my recipe for Chicken Larb, Radicle Roots is a small, but very productive, sustainable market garden just outside of Sisters, OR. Radicle Roots is run by James Bernston, a first generation farmer from Snohomish, Washington. Farming is time and labor intensive work, even with a work force, and James does it all on his own, with help from his girlfriend Sydney when she is free from her Masters studies in Counseling. Due to the responsibilities of plant care, he operates at a small scale. As a market garden, James does his part to cultivate a variety of select crops for the Central Oregon Food system. Conscious of the capacity of his operation, James focuses on growing superb quality and cultivar diversity in his field beds. This care is reflected in the crops he brings to market; every head of lettuce and every bunch of radishes is a work of living art, full of color, crisp and fresh. He has to be selective about where he sells his food, so that his fields are not over harvested, and run dry. As such, he most often sells directly to his markets of choice, and has built relationships with restaurants and wholesalers around town. We are one of the proud partners of Radicle Roots, but you can also find his produce at the Bend Farmers Market over the summer, in Central Oregon Locavore’s store or on the menus of Drake, Jackson’s Corner and a number of other restaurants downtown.

 

Small Farms are a cornerstone of building economic diversity in our community, and a critical component of fostering a resilient food system. In any agronomy, at any scale, the key to sustainability is balance. Though small, Radicle Roots is an important piece in the balance of Central Oregon’s agricultural landscape. James’s operation is a testament to the productivity of a small, intensively attended plot of land. Since everything is hand cultivated, James is able to plant densely and maximize the marginal food yield from the land at his disposal. As the human population  grows, our demand for food grows with it; as that population builds its aggregate wealth over time, demand expands exponentially.

In the world of expanding humanity, the agronomy can grow in 2 ways. One is what has been come to known as the “conventional” model; large, specialized farms that focus specifically on producing for economies of scale. While these farms can provide food at an affordable price and over a broad range, is requires large inputs of water fertilizer and land to make these operation function. As we have begun to see, through the years, this leads to some inherent externalities as management is stretched over large acreage; to state it simply, we don’t have that land available. The second model offers a bit more systemic sustainability. This model I speak of is the smaller, diversified farm that has come to define the local food movement in America. These farms do not individually produce food at the scale capable in their larger counterparts, but when working together, they create a diverse network that contributes to the dietary needs of their direct community. Since their operations cater to a diminished scale, they require less infrastructure and as a result tend to be more flexible to the whims of nature. This flexibility also extends into the land they occupy. Since market gardens like Radicle Roots focus on intensive hand cultivation, they are capable of producing high marginal food yields in small places.

While we drive forward into a more crowded world, available farmland is dwindling, and food production has to find a way to adapt to the space that remains. James is a quiet member of the farmers adapting to such a world. His operation ingratiates itself into the neighborhood around him, providing more than just sustenance to his neighbors. In addition to his veggies, James offers his neighbors an opportunity to build their community by hosting greenhouse space for people to start gardens of their own. His presence there is that of balance; holding food production on one shoulder, land care on the other, and community development on his head.

What we hope to do at Agricultural Connections is help this sort of society to thrive by offering a central market to sell their food  so that it can always find a hungry plate. Our hope is that this sort of farming can become part of the larger hegemony in Central Oregon and create a community that is more engaged with the personalities of those who grow for them. This week we will be at Jackson’s Corner on the west side to celebrate the food that James and many other’s bring to our community on a weekly basis. Come out and learn more about these champions of the land.

 

Follow Your Food: Baked Polenta “Pasticciata”

This week as we were receiving produce from the fields, Gigi from Windflower Farm stopped by with boxes filled with a colorful array of mustard greens, kale, turnips, and mixed chois. While we were stacking the waxed boxes in the warehouse, I mentioned to Gigi my excitement to include such beautiful produce in our shares this week but have a hard time finding recipes for cooking fresh mustard. She stopped what she was doing to recommend pairing the greens with pork. It was just a quick suggestion, but that little bit of sharing got my mind opened up to new kitchen ideas to diversify how I use greens outside of salad lunches. Every farmer that walks though our door wants comes with their own bite sized suggestion to share how they use these crops. The accumulation of these conversations adds up to create a robust foundation of the knowledge required to eat seasonally. These little moments that arise during our conversations with farmers provide access to information that simply does not exist while browsing though the supermarket.

To often, we shop individually. When left to our own devices, our food decisions are often stressed by imperfect information regarding buying responsibly, sourcing and finding a healthy diet. Ultimately this requires more time to read labels, check prices and find a good tomato in February. We have all been there: walking out through the sliding doors of the grocery store, pushing a full cart, wondering if you could have shopped a little more efficiently, a little more responsibly. As we engage more directly with those who live to grow our food, we gain a better idea of what exactly we are buying. By getting involved with local food systems, we know our money is going towards supporting not only personal health, but it helps develop the community around us. As we open up the dialogue around food,  perspective changes from prescriptive dining, to descriptive eating, where meals are flexible and revolve around what is seasonally available. With this shift comes the understanding that there aren’t really tomatoes in February, and instead creates the question, “what do I do with mustard greens?” It is an exciting question to confront because it requires reaching outside of our world to share ideas with other people. That question is an opportunity to learn what others in the community are doing in their kitchen, and try something new.

In talking with Gigi, my confoundment with mustard greens turned into an opportunity to expand my cooking knowledge. So, to continue the trend, I will pass on what I learned. Whether or not you cook this recipe, I hope that it inspires a new way to cook seasonally in your kitchen.

This recipe is pulled, and altered, from a cookbook by Esquire called “Eat like a Man”. Below is the recipe, with my own adjustments marked with an asterisk. The actual recipe does not actually call for mustard, but it seemed an ammenable alteration. The mustard’s bite provides sharp contrast to the rich, nutty flavor of pork. For anyone who does not eat meat, a similar effect could be gained by sauteing an egg with the greens, then baking in walnuts. Who knows, your alteration could make this even better! But i digress… and here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

Polenta:

9 cups water

2 tsp coarse salt

2 tbsp olive oil

3 cup ground cornmeal (Hummingbird Wholesale)

3/4 cup grated Parmesan

1 tbsp unsalted butter

Ground black Pepper

Sausage: 

2 tbsp unsalted butter (I used olive oil*)

4 garlic cloves, chopped (Groundwork Organics)

2 lb ground pork (DD Ranch)

Red pepper flakes *

1 cup milk (Gerry’s Dairy)

2 cups chopped mustard greens (Windflower Farm) *

1/2 red onion (Cinco Estrellas) *

12 sage, or tarragon leaves (Sakestruck herbary)

Cooking Instructions:

To make the polenta: Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Add the salt and olive oil, reduce the heat until the water is simmering. Gently rain the cornmeal into the simmering water; add slowly and whisk as you pour to prevent lumps. Cover and set on a very low heat; periodically remove the lid and stir. The polenta will get very thick. After 25-30 minutes, or so, stir in the parmesan, butter, and pepper. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm until ready to stir.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

To make the sausage: In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter until foamy (or heat the oil). Saute the garlic and herbs, onion until the garlic is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the sausage and pepper flakes and stir with a wooden spoon, breaking up any chunks, and cook until the pork loses its pink color and is slightly brown around the edges. Add in the mustard, and sit until it begins to wilt, less than 1 minute. Add the milk,  cover and reduce heat to braise. Cook until almost no liquid remains, 20 min.

Spread oil in the bottom of a 12 inch cast iron skillet. Pour the polenta in first, covering evenly. Spoon the sausage mixture over top. Then, top with crumbled gorgonzola cheese and a bit more parmesan. Bake in the oven, uncovered, for golden and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, let it cool for a bit, and then serve.

If you get the pork and polenta going at the same time, the total cooking period is about 50 minutes. This dish is easy, has simple prep, and it loaded with flavor!

 

 

Follow Your Food: Thai Chicken Larb

In my last post I talked about how food is a vehicle to connect with culture outside of our own, and did a recipe on Thai Red Curry to bring some eastern flavor into our Kitchen, and the curry was just awesome. Also, this time of year there is a lot of fresh, brassicas growing, which means cooking dishes with sharp mustard flavors and Asian origin. So, naturally, this time around I wanted to continue the Thai trend. It is also the advent of regional spring lettuce season. Crisp, turgid lettuce leaves provide the perfect vessel for wrapping up a lot of flavor without soaking in juices. Now, I am not opposed to wiping my plate clean with a hearty piece chunk of baguette; but for the sake of the spring, the juicier, the better!

The lettuce I am using comes from this week’s produce box. These mixed varieties of romaine and red leaf come from James of Radicle Roots Farm, which is a sustainable market garden located just 12 miles outside of Bend. Their philosophy is simple, “healthy soil grows healthy food, which is the underlying principal for cultivating a reciprocally sustainable agrarian system. As first generation farmers, their goal is to bring vibrant energy and a passion for future generations to our local food system. I will write more about James and Radicle Roots at a later date, once I can get out to the farm with him and dig into his operation. But for now, let his lettuce speak as a testament to their quality care and fresh produce.

I was talking with James this Tuesday when he came by to drop off his produce for the week, and inspired me on the idea of using his lettuce as a wrap. So I set off to find a good recipe for lettuce wraps, and found one that incorporates Thai Larb (or Laap).  Larb is the national dish of Laos and has been incorporated into the culinary  tradition northern Thailand where there ay many people of Laotian descent. It combines raw or cooked minced meat, spices, mint, basil and is often served on lettuce leaves. It is traditionally a spicy dish, where spice adds complexity into the flavor of a dish. Southeast Asian meals derive their spice from capsicum chilis, cumin, garlic, and ginger. The watery lettuce leaves counterbalance the heat, and cool your palate at the end of a bite. This provides a rather refreshing physical experience to dining on a warm, sunny day. Since it is not quite pepper season in the high desert, I brought in spice with red chili flakes, garlic from Groundwork Organics and ginger from Bob at Tumalo Fish and Vegetable Farm. And because it is the aforementioned spring brassica season, I chopped up some of Windflower Farms asian greens to add some mustardy zest into the mix.

I pulled my recipe from one I found by Williams Sonoma. Due to what I had in the pantry, and what is available seasonally, I made some adjustments. No doubt it is good with or without amending the original format.

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tbs soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs rice vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar, since that is what is in my pantry)
  • 2 Tbs Asian sesame oil
  • 1 Tbs Asian fish sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions, white and light green portions
  • 1 1/2 Tbs peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (I would also recommend finding a red thai chili to cook in)
  • 1 1/4 lb ground chicken (I used chicken thighs, which I diced up myself)
  • Lettuce leaves for serving
  • Bean sprouts and fresh cilantro and basil leaves for serving
    • I did not have either the basil or the sprouts, but I did add in sliced hakurei turnips from Windflower Farm as a garnish, which was spot on

Cooking Directions:

  1. In a bowl, stir together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, fish sauce, sugar and lime juice. Set aside.
  2. In a wok or large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the green onions, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add half the soy sauce mixture and cook 1 minute more.
  3. In a wok or large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the green onions, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add half the soy sauce mixture and cook 1 minute more.
  4. To serve, spoon about 3 Tbs. of the chicken mixture into a lettuce leaf, top with bean sprouts, cilantro and basil, and wrap the lettuce around the filling. But that is just the recommended serving style. To do this family style, I put all of the add ons on a few plates and allowed for self serve. Put the the remaining soy sauce mixture alongside in a small bowl for dipping

This dish is just amazing, and I cant even imagine how much better it would be if I had some basil, bean sprouts and thai chilis on hand…

 

Follow Your Food: Thai Vegetable Red Curry

Farming  is the oldest and most ubiquitous concepts to any proper human civilization. While other languages describe the concept with different words, the meaning is the same. In western Romance languages, the term to describe farming is Agriculture. Agriculture derives its roots from the latin agre, meaning the field, and cultura, meaning cultivation. As you can likely imagine, the literal combination of these roots describe the cultivation of fields, or humans culturing nature. There is, however another, less literal significance of agriculture, and that is the land culturing humans. Most historians would likely agree what humans were only able to develop standing civilizations and civil societies after first learning how to cultivate the land. Sure there may have been pre-agrarian neolithic civilizations prior to the dawn of  agriculture, but these were subsistence societies with no specialization. It was only once we learned to culture the land that humans learned how to culture themselves. After the early Mesopotamian societies began irrigating their fields of barley and wheat we see the first evidence of written language, complex scene art and legal codification. Ever since, human culture and agriculture have grown side by side, with different global regions creating their own definition of both. As a result, the global demograph is a rich mosaic of music genres, art styles and culinary palates.

Years of developing our understanding of the land and international exchange of knowledge allows modern farmers to use traditional techniques to grow crops one known as staples in another land. Consequently, we are granted the privilege to share in a cultural palates belonging to other nations. Once again this highlights the importance food has in culturing our appreciation for a wider world, and protect us from myopia .This week we had a rather amazing recipe tossed our way by Vanessa Niles who volunteers with us to help deliver orders to Madras. At first glance, I knew I was hooked. I love Thai red curry – it is honestly one of my favorite dishes. Usually I don’t get the chance to cook it on my own, as there is often times a scramble for all of the ingredients, however, this week was different, the family box contents happened to have most of the requisites that would normally send me to the store. The second hook for me, since I was tired after work and rather hungry, was the time. The 20 minutes advertised in the recipe link promised to get me fed before confounding ‘hangriness’ kicked in and sent me out to eat. Needless to say, the dish lived up to my expectations, and will assuredly become a staple in my kitchen quiver, when the season is right of course.

 

Ingredients

2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

2 Garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbsp ginger (Tumalo Fish and Vegetable Farm) minced

1 Tbsp Turmeric (Tumalo Fish and Vegetable Farm) minced

2 Tbsp Curry Paste

1 Small Sweet potato, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 hd Bok Choi or Baby Bok Choi (Radicle Roots and Windflower Farm), chopped into 1 inch strips

4 Cups Vegetable or Chicken Broth

13 oz can of Coconut Milk

1/2 Tbsp Fish Sauce

1/2 Tbsp Brown Sugar

3.5 oz rice vermicelli noodles

Garnishes (recipe says optional, I say essential)

1/2 red onion (Cinco Estrellas) sliced thin

1 lime

Handful of Fresh Cilantro (Cinco Estrellas)

Sriracha to taste

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Prepare the vegetables for the soup first so that they are ready when needed
  2. Add the cooking oil into a large soup pot (4-5 qt), along with the minced garlic, ginger, turmeric and Thai red curry paste. Saute the garlic, ginger, turmeric and curry paste over medium heat for 1-2 minutes
  3. Add the diced sweet potato and chopped Bok Choi stalks to the pot (save the leafy green ends of the choi for later), add broth right away and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 5-7 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender.
  4. While the soup is simmering, bring a small pot of water to a boil for the vermicelli and boil 2-3 minutes or just until tender (I prefer rice noodles a little bit al dente). Drain the rice noodles in a strainer and set aside.
  5. Once the sweet potatoes are tender, add the coconut milk, fishsauce and brown sugar to the soup. Stir to taste and adjust the fish sauce or brown sugar if needed. Finally, add the bok choi greens and let them wilt in the hot soup (30 seconds)
  6. To serve, divide the rice noodle and ladle the soup over the bowls. Top the bowls with the fresh, thinly sliced red onion, the cilantro and a lime wedge. I them spiced my bowl up with some Sriracha and red pepper flakes because I am a spice junkie.
  7. Enjoy the fresh flavor!

Follow Your Food: Asparagus

 

I have already written a few time about the effect of spring in our fields. Spring also offers us special ingredients to use for our meal. As this is the season of first life and growth, many of the crops farmers harvest are at their most tender stage in the plant life cycle. This past week’s produce box hosted the true taste of tender spring with Springbank Farm’s Asparagus.

Asparagus, or Asparagus officionalis, is the perfect spring crop. Due to the value of this crop and the short season in which it grown, agrarian European communities have long viewed asparagus season as the highlight of the foodie calendar. Right now the flavor of its young shoots are tender and delicate as the plant accumulates water. Despite being 93% water, the juvenile shoots are packed with concentrated  nutrient densities of Iron, Vitamin K, and B Vitamins (Folate, Riboflavin and Thiamine).  There is rich with the amino acid asparagine, from which the plant derives its name. As an amino acid, asparagine facilitates the synthesis of proteins in our body. Although non-essential, asparagine’s contribution to protein biosynthesis is shown to be valuable in quite a number of ways. Its most prominent role play out in our nervous system by contributing to neuron growth and signal transmission across nerve endings. This amino acid may also prove important for the avid outdoorsman by smoothing liver function, which, in turn, leads to improved athletic stamina and builds resistance to nagging fatigue. Finally, asparagine is a fine complement to a vegetarian diet to increase the bioavailability of plant based proteins. I would say that this is a power packed vegetable for the lifestyle many of us choose to pursue here in Central Oregon!

Unfortunately,  its only a short time. Since asparagus is an herbaceous perennial, its structure becomes more robust as the season progresses. In the later weeks of springtime, the apical buds begin to open up, or “fern out”. At this point, the once tender stalks begin to lignify as more resources are directed to photosynthetic and reproductive tissues. So, make the most out of this spring, and every spring by sharing this wonderful crop in meals while it is still around. So to help, we have a recipe that won over our stomach’s. This week we want to tackle breakfast. Since it is the first meal of the day, a hearty breakfast is critical to fueling an action packed day at work, in the mountains, on the river or a high grade climb. Often times the tight schedule that comes with such a lifestyle prevents us from really being able to invest time into creating a real morning meal. Well the weekend is a perfect time to get it going and create something special to share!

Last time I shared some good ol’ Red Beans and Rice. This time I pulled a recipe from Lucinda Quinn’s second cookbook, Mad Hungry Cravings, and found an Asparagus and Spinach Frittata. I will let the rest speak for itself:

Ingredients:

Frittata, serves 6:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound of asparagus with the ends trimmed

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

1/2 lemon

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound of fresh spinach, chopped

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

10 large eggs

1 1/2 cups whole milk

Sauce:

1 tablespoon capers

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2 scallions, finely chopped (I used shallots)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375, with the rack in the middle position. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium- high hea. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil. When it shimmers, add the asparagus and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook, tossing occasionally, until the asparagus is lightly browned in spots. Transfer to a plate, squeeze the lemon juice over it, and let cool
  2. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic, spinach, pepper and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and cook for just about a minute.
  3. Whisk the eggs and milk in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Pour into the skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until the eggs begin to scramble but are still very wet. Remove from heat.
  4. Distribute a layer of the asparagus over the eggs, pressing them gently into the mixture. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the frittata is set.
  5. Meanwhile, for the sauce, combine the salt, pepper, capers, scallions, parsley, oil and vinegar into a small bowl
  6. Slice frittata into wedges and serve with sauce.

My CSA Kitchen: Red Beans and Rice

Alright, so this recipe may seem a bit basic, and perhaps a little out of place, but sometimes it is nice to cross pollinate food culture. While red beans and rice is typically a southern classic, this week’s CSA box supplies many of the requisite ingredients to serve it up locally. Of course, given the nature of cooking seasonally from your food region, I had to deviate a bit from the recipe and make some personalized adjustments. But, after all, that is what the spirit of cooking represents: inspiration from others to cook food that best fits our individual (or community) environment. The recipe that I pulled from is by Lucinda Quinn’s cookbook, Mad Hungry, which is a great source of hearty, creative and flavorful meals that are perfect for families with a big appetite. I cook from this book quite frequently and would absolutely recommend this as kitchen resource.

Now recipe in Mad Hungry differs from this a bit, but I wanted my Red Beans and Rice to represent what is seasonally available here in Oregon. To start, here are the ingredients that I used:

1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil

1 Leek, quartered and chopped

1 Shallot, chopped

2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced

1-1.5 Stalks of Celery, chopped small

1/2 teaspoon Thyme

1 table spoon Parsley, chopped

1/2 lb of Dried Red Beans (soaked for 2-4 hours beforehand)

4 Slices of Bacon

1 Bay Leaf

1/4 Teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper

1 tablespoon of Tabasco (I like hot sauce a lot so maybe use less)

6-8 cups of water

Black Pepper and Coarse Salt to taste

To start you the oil over medium in a soup pot. When the oil is warm, add the celery garlic, leeks and shallots and saute until lightly caramelized: about 5 minutes. Then season the veggies with a little salt and pepper, mix in and cook for a few more minutes

Then pour in the water and beans. Bring the water to a boil for a few minutes,  then reduce heat to simmer the beans and vegetables. Allow the stew to cook for about 30 minutes

Next, add the chopped bacon, cayenne, bay leaf, thyme and Tabasco. Allow another 30-60 minutes to cook. As the beans soften, smash them against the pot with a spoon to create a creamier texture.

When the beans are soft and smashed, top with celery and whatever hot sauce your palette requires. Serve with rice, and you have a meal for 4-6 people (or 3 skiers).