Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cattail Flour:

When I first heard one could actually eat cattail it was while browsing through a US Army survival manual I have that stands at roughly a bajillion pages thick. Regardless it goes over what kinds of unconventional plants a human may ingest in a number of different environmental types. I remember reading the section on Cattail and thinking that might be fun to do. Everyone, I give you the process to refine flour using a fine local plant; the Cattail.

First I went out for collection, I’m sure there’s better ways to do it but my novice regard made it seem fairly straight forward, I found a place where Cattails are, pulled off the side of the road and voila I started pulling my first Cattail. On my first mission out I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be looking for so I naturally grabbed the biggest healthiest looking one I could find. It stood well over my head at around eight to nine feet high. It had long frond leaves that hung down, a giant grass. I knew I was supposed to be interested in the tubers (the thick roots of Cattail that network the underground) so when I pulled one up I decided to do it with relative carefulness so as not to rip the tuber from the root ball. I must admit, they do not come out all the time, but I stacked the harvested bundle together and kept going. That time I brought home about 7 individual Cattail plants. As soon as I got home I proceeded toward the burn pile and began stripping the flower down to its stalk. Stripping, though racy, might be the best way to describe the process. Once you’ve got it down to a single stalk begin shaking the dirt clods away from the root ball and the attached tuber. They look like, well, a big thick root and it are undeniably recognized as the main giant root emanating from the plant stalk. Separate the tubers and begin to scrub them free of dirt.

The remainder of the plant is not just thrown aside, in ancient times the leaves were used as an excellent weaving material, thus giving the ability to not only feed, but for other practical uses as well. The flowers, the main brown part that distinguishes it as a Cattail, while young can be boiled and eaten like corn as well. But for the fall season, as I was in, my only usable options were the tubers. I do not know how to weave.

So the first time I tried to do this I somewhat failed, or almost succeeded, depending on how you perceive it. I boiled the tubers, un-skinned, peeled and dried them in a food dehydrator. The next day I took a mortar and pestle to it and followed some rudimentary directions on the internet. They told me to put it all in a bowl of water, so I did. I, however was supposed to peal them before I extracted the starch, therefore it turned out to look like an oatmealy mess.

The second time I did this turned out quite differently as I was properly prepared this time with a potato peeler and a fine strainer for separation. My harvesting techniques had changed as well, that time I had brought a shovel to dig a little to expose tubers under the surface. While doing so it dawned on me that I didn’t need to harvest the fronds at all considering all I needed were the tubers, plus I wouldn’t kill the plant that way; more sustainable. This time I came back with a few handfuls of tubers and a frond or two to perhaps give weaving a whirl later on. The labor inductive part of this task was to peel the tubers down to their white stringy innards. For a few handfuls of tubers it took me nearly forty five minutes to peel every piece, though it was my first time. But that wasn’t the most time consuming part of the process. There was still the matter of extracting the starch from the root, which consisted of a steady resolve, sturdy butter knife and a working surface of some kind. The idea here is to literally scrape the starch right out of the stock, it almost was always a brilliant white compared with the drab brownish that was the tuber itself and it resembled that of ricotta cheese.

Quite a while later, I’m not sure exactly as time merely became an illusion after a bit, I had finished scraping every last ounce of starch from that gooey mess. The tubers proved hard to hold onto while I was endeavoring to scrape their innards out, take caution if you try this method. According to the internet there’s another way to do that by working the roots with your hands in water but my way was talked about as being more fun.

So, I had a bowl full of what looked like mashed potatoes with little string fibers from the tubers themselves. The next step in the process was simple, submerge in water and wait. So I did, I filled the bowl up and went out drinkin’ with the dudes.

The following morning it had all separated and I easily poured off the remaining water to be left with what looked like day old, wet cream of wheat. I took that and poured it carefully onto a sheet of wax paper and proceeded to put it in the food dehydrator.

Then I waited for two days.

When I took the wax paper sheet out it had what resembled a white cow-pie, it was somewhat gross looking but more importantly it was dry. The ‘last’ step in the process was to use the mortar and pestle to grind out the flour.

There you have it! Cattail flour! YAY! What I’ve realized is that this is a very labor intensive process that is not for the faint of heart. There was a great deal of work that went into this for what I got in return but it was informative. I’m glad to know if I had to survive on the elements, I could even cook bread with proper time and prep.

Thanks for reading!

Brian

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cioppino Time

Cioppino

This was my first foray into the highly dubious world of Italian soups but I have to say, after the fact, it was simply the best recipe I've done thus far. Living on the coast of the Pacific Northwest allows one to enjoy the bounty by which they are surrounded by. By this I mean shellfish. Clams, mussels, oysters, crab. Its all here for the taking. And for Cioppino, its for lack of a better word, perfect.


To Save a lot of time and typing I'm going to simply copy and paste the recipe from which I derived my version, take note that I did not have all the exact ingredients but I think thats okay when dealing with something like this.



Cioppino Recipe

Ingredients

Seafood

  • 3 pounds halibut, sea bass, or other firm white fish, cut into inch-long cubes
  • 1 large (2 lb or more) cooked Dungeness crab (hard shell) or a cooked lobster
  • 1 pound (or more) of large shrimp
  • 2 pounds little neck clams, mussels, or oysters or all three

Sauce

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion (1 large onion)
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper (1 large green bell pepper)
  • 3 coves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 28 ounce can tomatoes
  • Broth from the mollusks
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • 2 cups fish or shellfish stock
  • An herb bouquet of bay leaf, parsley, and basil wrapped in a layer of cheesecloth and secured with kitchen string
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup minced parsley for garnish


Optional seasonings: a dash of Tabasco sauce and or Worcestershire sauce

Method

1 Steam mollusks (clams, mussels, oysters) in a small amount of water (about a cup) until they just open. Set aside. Strain and reserve the cooking broth.

2 If using crab, removed the crab legs from the body and use a nut cracker to crack the shells so that the meat can be easily removed once it is served (leave the meat in the shell). Break the body in half, and then cut each half again into either halves or thirds. Keep the top shell of the crab for making stock.

If you are using lobster, cut the tail in pieces and reserve the body and legs for making stock.

Note you can use prepared fish or shellfish stock, or you can make your own. If you are not making your own stock, you can discard the crab top shell or lobster body. If prepared shellfish stock is not available, I would combine some prepared fish stock (available at many markets, including Trader Joe's) with clam juice.

3 Split the shrimp shells down the back and remove the black vein. (See how to peel and devein shrimp.) I found the easiest way to do this, without removing the shell, is to lay the shrimp on its side and insert a small knife into the large end of the shrimp, with the blade pointing outward from the back (away from the shrimp and your hands). Once you have split the shrimp shells, you can turn the knife toward the shrimp, and cut in a little to find the black vein. Pull out the vein as much as you can. You can probably also use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut the backs of the shrimp.

Alternatively, you can shell the shrimps and devein them. Shell-on imparts more flavor; shell-off is easier to eat.

4 In a deep 8-quart covered pot, sauté onions and green pepper on medium heat in olive oil until soft. Add the garlic, sauté 1 minute more. Add tomatoes, broth from the mollusks, red wine, tomato juice, fish or shellfish stock, the herb bouquet, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove herb bouquet. Taste and correct seasoning.

5 Add the fish and cook, covered, until the fish is just cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the steamed mollusks, crabmeat, and shrimp. Heat just until shrimp are cooked (just 2-3 minutes, until they are bright pink). Do not overcook.

6 Serve in large bowls, shells included. Sprinkle with minced parsley. Serve with crusty French or Italian bread and a robust red wine. Have plenty of napkins available, a few extra bowls for the shells, and nut crackers and tiny forks for the crab.

Serves 8.




All in all this recipe was just awesome and got a great reaction from all my friends who took part in the eating process. I warn those who follow this recipe that it tends to be a bit bland, I suggest adding some Cayenne peppers or Habañaro to spice things up.


Hope you all enjoyed this installment of the B•Log!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Molokai to Maui:Hawaii:Part 1

Hawaii: Molokai to Maui

Everyone who knows me well will tell you I don't like flying very much. It's not that I'm inexperienced to the whole ordeal, I imagine I've been in an airplane at least one hundred times or so, it's my active imagination that dooms me every time I step from the gate to the plane, then to make matters worse, you're treated like a sardine being crammed into tiny seats and patronized throughout the entire flight being asked to buy a blasted Coca Cola for three dollars. A can of coke, for three dollars. It's a lesson in modern society at it's finest. Say nothing of the fact that you're sitting in an aluminum tube, at 35 thousand feet, going at an incredible rate of speed, made by the lowest bidder. But as I found on this trip to the US State of Hawaii, it's much much better to fly with someone to share the experience with, bless her soul!

It starts in the Portland International Airport, one of the finest I've had the privilege to use. After a rather bumpy five and half hour flight we touch down our Alaskan Airline to Kahului, Maui around mid day. Gathering our belongings from the carousel proved smooth and simple. Before we knew it we were setting our bags down at the Maui Seaside hotel, notorious amongst the locals for being a cheap place to stay. The accommodations weren't that bad and we had a chance for some R&R. Nightfall came soonafter and Randi and I saw our first Hawaiian sunset, well sort of, the part of it not obscured by Mona Haleakala. We had to get up early the following morning to catch the bus at 5:30am to the western side at Lahaina
, so it was an early evening for the both of us. Due to the time differential it proved easier to sleep. Shortly before bed I went out along a rock wall and snapped a shot of the moon over Kahului.
The morning afterward went as to be expected. Got onto the Lahaina Islander #20 and made it to the town of Lahaina just after six in the morning to catch our boat to the small island of Molokai. It was still dark and the both of us were hungry, tired and ready to go. It took the 'money person' quite a while to arrive which allowed me time to photograph Lahaina's famous single-giant Banyan tree, eventually, however, we finally got to board and before we knew it we were on our way to Molokai.

One thing Randi and I had wanted to do was take a whale watching boat out to see the Humpback whales, what we didnt know is that this particular year there was a record amount of them surrounding Maui, over 7,000 by some estimates! Whales excite me to great extents, I get all giddy when I see one. To say the least, this one boat ride was, by far, the most active I've ever seen the great mammals, comparable to the Orcas of Argentina.

They were magnificent! Rolling, waving, spying, fluking, slapping, crooning, breachingly magnificent! Unfortunately I didn't have any sort of telephoto lens with me but I used what I could to get anything I was seeing. The activity of the animals was rather impressive as we only expected to maybe see one or two... but you would look out at the ocean for less than two minutes and you were guaranteed to see some sort of whale sign.

The entire trip took around two hours or so and the whales never let up the entire time.

MOLOKAI
The island of Molokai, we were told, was the most 'Hawaiian' of all the Hawaiian Islands. Naturally, me being the adventurer that I am, aspired to visit this tiny place in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Tiny indeed! There's only one main town on it called Kuanakakai. There are no stoplights on the entire island, truly rural, and it felt that way. People on Molokai like things simple and prefer to stand apart from the hustle and bustle of Maui and the 'the big island.'
I could definitely relate to people here as I prefer rural environments. Though things are even more expensive on Molokai than anywhere on the other islands, it still rang through to me. A jagged, mountainous island with environmental extremes that pertains to the four directions. The northern and eastern sides are moist jungles that cover some of the highest sea cliffs in the world, making for a rather dramatic landscape, while the southern and western parts of the island are relatively arid in comparison, it's rumored among the locals to even find certain species of scorpions under some occasional rocks. All while Humpbacks, singing red Cardinals, Geckos and puffer fish drift about the area.
We had rented a Toyota Echo for our time there, it was nice to have our own car to explore the island. I truly felt able to do what we wanted now that we had a car, thus exploring the island was first and foremost. On our first day we ventured east to the end of the road in Halawa Bay, a beautiful place of secluded beach and dramatic mountainous jungle surrounding. It was the site of the intro to Jurassic Park 3.

As I write I realize I should probably mention our place we were staying in as it was a fantastic deal and an amazing place. Called the A'ahi Place, it resided up A'ahi road just about two miles east on the main road from Kuanakakai. For $75 a night we got our own house with kitchen, bathroom, parking, deck, everything. Even orange trees outside and cherry tomatoes in the back. I surprisingly forgot to take a photo of the place.

We had allotted for three nights on Molokai. We ended up staying four at the protest of our landlord, Steve and his friend Larry. Good guys, a little on the nutty side, but I think generally good people. He felt bad even charging me as I had become somewhat of a brief friend.
Our second day on Molokai was filled with our very own, self guided, 'Agro-Tour' in which we spent our day going to a Sugar Museum, Coffee Plantation, Macadamia Nut farm and at the end of the day we visited a Coconut Grove at the risk we might die by falling coconut, it wasn't too breezy thankfully. On that day we had also stopped off at the viewpoint to see the Kalaupapa national reserve, a two mile long peninsula sticking off the north side of Molokai, it's the site of one of the world's only active leper colonies. A truly beautiful sight for a lovely Hawaiian morning.

Our third day on Molokai saw us to the beach! Finally we spent some time just hanging out at Dixie Maru beach, named for the Japanese ship under the same name that went down in a storm in times past. We went snorkeling a little bit with some very faulty gear, it was Randi's first time ever, thus frustrating for her with such equipment in disarray. Quite understandable to me, as my mask's strap had broken and I was merely using suction to keep it to my face. As irritating as our gear was, I did see a few interesting fish, one of which I'm convinced was the Hawaiian state fish.... the (here we go now) Humuhumunukunukuapua'a is what it is known as. A quite nice looking trigger fish, I also saw some other interesting things and I'm convinced I found a piece of china plate... maybe from the Dixie Maru itself. I'm glad I decided to bring my underwater camera! (Note, the fish pictured is not the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a)

On that same snorkel excursions I accidentally got some seawater in my lungs, which would play out over the next few weeks, but that's for later. We took a nice walk along the beach and then went back for some dinner, we were to get up early the following morning for a 4:15am boat back to Maui for the remainder of our trip. Though during that day we had thought to possibly stay an additional day, and subsequently... we did.
Our fourth and final day went nice and easy, going to the beach for a long walk along the golden sands on the island's west side and then visiting an organic farm with endless rows of all sorts of hot weather crops, noticeable were the lines of papaya trees.
We were sunburned, thirsty and tired and knew we had to get up very early the following morning. At 6pm that night, things took a toll for the worse.

Randi, at some point, one way or another, contracted some sort of food poisoning. It was bad. And the question of whether or not we'd be leaving at 4:00am the following morning seemed to be up for debate. But she decided to carry on, and despite some morning instances, she powered through it. Before we knew it we were sitting on the top exposed deck of the same boat we came across on almost a week prior. The captain got on the PA mic and made an ominous announcement.
"Just so you folks sitting on the top know, it may seem calm here at the harbor this morning, the trade winds are kicking up good so we're expecting a rough ride, so you may want to get to the shelter of the lower decks. We're expecting a two hour ride to Lahaina."

Randi found a seat on the lowest deck to lay down on, though I was incapable of staying down there, when a boat is rocking back and forth I need to see the horizon line to have a still reference point. The seas were quite rough that morning indeed. Throwing things that lay on the deck, people's personal luggage and cargo, and wave spray breaking over the boat. Thankfully it was warm enough for a T-shirt. After it started getting light enough to actually see some things I saw a giant Humpback breach completely out of the water just a stone's throw away from the boat. It was in the very earliest hours and sometimes I wonder if it was a figure of my imagination. The sunrise over Maui was breathtaking as we entered calmer waters.

MAUI

Sunday, February 14, 2010

DUCK AND COVER!


BEEP BEEP BEEP.... This Just In... BEEP BEEP BEEP

There has been a 60 megaton thermonuclear detonation off of the coast of northwest Oregon, near the small town of Tillamook. If you are within the affected area please proceed to your nearest fallout shelter or local health service department. All access to the affected area has been shut down by force of local, state and federal forces.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Tweeners





These aren't my favorite HDR shots but I decided I liked them enough to post them... so enjoy!

The first is of The Capes housing development in Oceanside, Oregon.

Detritus up 'Top of the World'

Josh fixing his car

An Average rainy forest in T County.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Slide show

Check out the Slide show!

A Flickr Slideshow of HDR shots

More HDR shots of T county



These are two more examples, I'm mainly using these as tests right now to experiment with the blog site for now... but enjoy none the less.

Bayocean Spit trail


Went out the other day with the camera and decided to take a few HDR shots of the 9:00am sunrise, it was nice and windy and unseasonably warm for early February.

This photo is for sale, inquire within.

Tests and Trials

Just seeing if this B Log is working.