Old World Meats Make a Comeback as a Sustainable Choice

By Jacqueline Church

Are bunnies the new chickens? Is bison the new beef? Will goat nudge lamb off the menu? While bison, goat, and rabbit aren’t new, per se, they are garnering fresh interest among chefs and home cooks (and media) eager for sustainable options.

new-meats-postDemand for bison and goat is on the rise nationally, says Becky Faudree, Whole Foods’ global meat purchasing team leader. “Bison is one of our strongest-growing categories. We recently began carrying goat, and currently it is only offered in a few regions. Even with the small amount offered, we have seen an increase in sales. We anticipate the bison and goat categories will continue to grow.” Whole Foods may not sell rabbit yet, but other gourmet butchers do. Here’s what you need to know about these chic meats.


Sustainability story: Because bison are entirely prairie-grazed, they cause less damage to the environment than cattle raised on feedlots. In fact, bison are credited with helping to restore prairies. If you choose a producer like Wild Idea Buffalo, you’ll also know that they are never given antibiotics, growth hormones, or steroids. Wild Idea Buffalo are also slaughtered humanely in the field under South Dakota state inspection.

Taste: similar to beef.

Health benefits: Ground bison has about 25% fewer calories and half the saturated fat of grass-fed ground beef.

Best use: Use it in any recipe that calls for beef; our Buffalo Blue Burgers are a tasty introduction. Take care not to overcook lean bison.

Where to find it: most supermarkets, online, and even big-box stores.


Sustainability story: Goats forage for their food and require little land and water, making them a more environmentally sound choice than conventionally raised beef, lamb, or even chicken. In Muslim communities, where goat is a popular meat, it must be raised and slaughtered humanely, according to Islamic law. This satisfies growing consumer demand for humanely treated animals.

Taste: Young goat (kid, less than 6 months old) tastes like mild lamb.

Health benefits: 4 ounces of goat has 122 calories and 3 grams of fat (1 gram saturated). A similar portion of lamb has 256 calories and 19 grams of fat (9 grams saturated).

Best use: Goat can be cooked, for the most part, very much like lamb. Shanks may be braised; steaks sautéed or grilled; and more sinewy cuts stewed. Remember, though, that goat is very lean, so take care not to overcook.

Where to find it: Goat is new to mainstream American shoppers, but it accounts for more than 60% of the red meat eaten worldwide. Look for it at some Whole Foods stores in the Southwest, Mid-Atlantic, and South; in Latin, Caribbean, and some Asian markets; and at halal butchers that cater to Middle Eastern and North African communities. Goat is turning up at farmers’ markets, too. It may be labeled chevron, cabrito, or capretto.


Sustainability story: Rabbits can be bred four to seven times per year. “They have a high meat-to-bone ratio, and they require little in terms of resources,” says Jennifer Hashley, co-owner of Pete and Jen’s Backyard Birds in Lincoln, MA (which raises rabbits as well as chickens) and director of Tufts Friedman School’s New Entry Sustainable Farming Project. Bunnies’ feed typically includes fast-growing, sustainable alfalfa in addition to foraged fare, says Hashley.

Taste: like chicken.

Health benefits: Rabbit has as much protein as chicken, but about 35% fewer calories and less than half the total and saturated fat.

Best use: Rabbit has long been a staple of French, Italian, and Spanish cuisines. It can be used much the way you would use chicken pieces–braising the legs works especially well. It’s also nice marinated and grilled.

Where to find it: At farmers’ markets and gourmet butchers (you may need to call ahead to order it).

jackie-thumbJacqueline Church is an independent writer whose work has appeared in Culture: the Word on Cheese, Edible Santa Barbara, and John Mariani’s Virtual Gourmet. She often writes about gourmet food, sustainability issues and the intersection of the two on her blog Leather District Gourmet. Currently, she’s at work on Pig Tales: a Love Story about heritage breed pigs and the farmers and chefs bringing them from farm to table.

Spring Pantry Cleaning Reinvigorates Your Cooking

By Jacqueline Church

The urge to do some serious spring cleaning has hit, and I wondered how many others shared my crazy pantry dilemma. I’d buy something on a whim—a block of belacan (Asian shrimp paste), a bottle of green peppercorns, a stash of fenugreek—then tuck it away in the pantry and forget about it. So I took a survey of NOURISH Evolution readers and Twitter followers and found that a theme emerged: The original inspiration to buy the now-buried-in-the-back-of-the-pantry-item was the desire to stretch in a new culinary direction. So I’ve put together a list of the three most common ingredients lurking in cupboards and included ideas for using them.

Lentils. These quick-cooking pulses are truly multipurpose. They can be used in soups and stews. They are terrific in cold salads for added protein and fiber. They can be cooked and mashed in veggie burgers or croquettes. They’re a lovely accompaniment to fish and poultry. If you have some on hand, try our All-Purpose French Lentils (it’s fine to substitute a different variety for the Lentilles de Puy in the recipe).

Dried black mushrooms. Dried shiitake, porcini, morel, and other varieties of mushrooms can seem daunting as they’re usually sold in large quantities. Fortunately, dried mushrooms are packed with nutrition and umami, and they last a long time. They add rich flavor and texture to soups, stews, risotto, and stir-fries. Soak them in hot water, and use the soaking liquid like any broth for a soup base or sauce. Use the stemmed and sliced mushrooms in all manner of recipes. Mushrooms are a perfect way to reduce saturated fat in dishes that call for ground or chopped meat; just replace some or all of the meat with mushrooms (try this with meatballs or substitute soaked and sauteed dried mushrooms for pork in Fumiko’s Gyoza).

Harissa. Two readers said they’d found a jar of harissa kicking around their pantries. Harissa is a pesto-like North African condiment made from chile peppers, garlic, olive oil, and spices. It adds a fiery punch to fish, grains, sauces, and dips. Think of it as revved-up ketchup. In fact, you can use harissa much like you would use ketchup, Tabasco, or Sriracha: on burgers, over scrambled eggs, in deviled eggs. Thin it with yogurt and serve it over fish, or as a dip for crudite. Thin it with olive oil for a rub for roast chicken.

Use your spring pantry cleaning energy, and these ideas, to rediscover the inspiration to try something new, whether it’s a new lentil salad, mushroom dumplings, or harissa-marinated fish.

jackie-thumbJacqueline Church is an independent writer whose work has appeared in Culture: the Word on Cheese, Edible Santa Barbara, and John Mariani’s Virtual Gourmet. She often writes about gourmet food, sustainability issues and the intersection of the two on her blog Leather District Gourmet. Currently, she’s at work on Pig Tales: a Love Story about heritage breed pigs and the farmers and chefs bringing them from farm to table.

Heritage Meat and Poultry: Eat it to Save it!

By Jacqueline Church

I dined on a Mulefoot pork chop at Cochon restaurant in New Orleans with a rush of pleasure, anxiety, and guilt. If this hog breed is endangered, should I be enjoying it so much? I thought. But in truth, the pork is what brought me to the restaurant; by eating the endangered breed, I was actually helping to save it.

heritage-breedsThe Mulefoot is just one threatened breed listed by Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste and the American Livestock Breed Conservancy. Both organizations seek to preserve endangered foods, including vanishing breeds of pigs, turkeys, cattle, and poultry. For example, did you know over half the swine breeds listed in the USDA Agriculture Yearbook of 1930 have disappeared?

Once modern, large factory farms emerged in the 1920s, pigs, turkeys, chickens and cows were bred to be docile and mature quickly. Animals were moved from pastures to crowded feedlots and fed cheap food that often made them sick (which led to widespread antibiotic use). And stressed animals on unnatural diets produce meat that is inferior in taste and quality. The good news is, conservation, biodiversity and superior taste are all part of the re-emerging food values inherent in heritage breeds.

Heritage breed farmers like Lisa Richards, owner of Mack Hill Farm in Southern New Hampshire, practice environmentally sound biodiversity. She and her husband raise Tamworth pigs–hardy foragers prized for lean, fine-grained meat. The farm is also home to sheep that yield milk for making yogurt and cheese (as well as whey that feeds the pigs), and chickens and Midget White turkeys that pick through manure in the pasture, breaking the parasite-bacteria cycle so the pigs can safely root the manure back into the soil as they forage.

This natural approach means that heritage breeds take longer to reach market weight and require pasture to roam and forage … which costs more than raising them on a feedlot … which means farmers can only raise heritage breeds if there is a market for them. Which brings us full circle.

As my Cochon experience demonstrated, chefs are a crucial link in the farm-to-table journey. Heritage breeds have long enchanted chefs, who are introducing diners everywhere to them. Chefs and consumers swoon over heritage breeds’ distinct characteristics, like high intramuscular fat and rich, fine-grained meat.

But diners are sometimes stunned at the prices of heritage products, which can cost $5-$10 or more per pound (reflecting a truer cost of food production than their conventional counterparts). Nonetheless, there are ways to incorporate heritage meat and poultry into your food budget.

Ask for it. I discovered heritage pork (a Tamworth-Berkshire cross, labeled only as “fresh pork shank”) for $3.99 per pound at my specialty grocer. Costco now carries D’Artagnan, which represents sustainable, humane small family farms and cooperatives. LocalHarvest.org can help you find farmers who sell directly to consumers, at farmers’ markets, and through CSAs in your area.

Eat less meat. The average American consumes 15 cows, 24 hogs, 900 chickens, 12 sheep, and 1,000 pounds of other assorted animals in their lifetime, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That‘s a half-pound of meat per day–almost twice the USDA’s recommended 5 ounces of lean protein for a 1,800-calorie daily diet.

By consuming smaller portions of more heritage meats, buying from farms or specialty grocers, and demanding heritage breeds at your mega-mart, you can help improve your family’s health, the environment, and breed diversity. As the Ark of Taste’s motto says, “Eat it to save it!”

jackie-thumbJacqueline Church is an independent writer whose work has appeared in Culture: the Word on Cheese, Edible Santa Barbara, and John Mariani’s Virtual Gourmet. She often writes about gourmet food, sustainability issues and the intersection of the two on her blog Leather District Gourmet. Currently, she’s at work on Pig Tales: a Love Story about heritage breed pigs and the farmers and chefs bringing them from farm to table.

For the Love of Dumplings

By Jacqueline Church

A “taste of the heart” is just one of the translations for “dim sum,” but it’s one I favor. I find the description carries over to dumplings too, which are a major component of dim-sum and are featured at this time of Lunar New Year as a symbol of  good luck.

The Chinese aren’t alone in their love for dumplings. The Polish have pierogies, South Americans eat empanadas. Koreans munch mandu, and Italians have ravioli and tortellini. Ever heard of Swabian Maultaschen? That stuffed noodle-style dumpling hails from Germany, as do Munich’s knödle. Indians have samosas. Kreplach are the dumplings in Jewish soups. There’s hardly a familiar cuisine that doesn’t have some well-known version of a dumpling.

dumplings-postMy mother is Japanese and our dumplings are called gyōza. You may know them as pot-stickers. At home these tasty little pouches mean more than just luck. In a culture that doesn’t have ways to overtly communicate love, a favorite food will often convey the affection not easily expressed otherwise.

The first time I brought Caleb, my then-boyfriend, home to Maryland, Mom suggested we gather the family for blue crab, so we stopped at the fishmongers on the way home from the airport. As we sat down to lunch and Mom parceled out our plates, it was hard not to notice where her affection was focused. For her first born, (me); a crab cake. For my sister, the mother of her only grandchildren; a crab cake. For her youngest child, the only son; a crab cake. For the new boyfriend? A giant crab ball (think supersized crabcake) the size of a grapefruit! The “Crab Ball Incident” as it’s now known, was only the first inkling of her love for my now-husband.

On another early visit, Mom made her gyōza and was delighted to see how much Caleb enjoyed them. Once she learned that he adores dumplings, she was certain to have a batch ready to go upon his arrival. We don’t even have to ask now; the food-as-love theme plays out all on its own. If we’re coming to visit, there will be gyōza. I reap the benefits of course, enjoying them along side my husband. My siblings are not as lucky. Their portions usually get served to Caleb before they arrive. “I can make gyōza for them anytime. Eat, eat!”

Fumiko’s gyōza are delicious. They’ve become the bar against which all others (including mine) are measured. And all others fall short. Though mine are passable, “they’re not Fumiko’s,” Caleb laments. This is the silent love pact between my mother and my husband. She will always make gyōza for him and he will always love hers above all others.

And me? I couldn’t be happier.

jackie-thumbJacqueline Church is an independent writer whose work has appeared in Culture: the Word on Cheese, Edible Santa Barbara, and John Mariani’s Virtual Gourmet. She often writes about gourmet food, sustainability issues and the intersection of the two on her blog Leather District Gourmet. Currently, she’s at work on Pig Tales: a Love Story about heritage breed pigs and the farmers and chefs bringing them from farm to table.

Fumiko’s Gyoza

By Jacqueline Church

Years back, my mother took a Chinese cooking course and learned this gyoza recipe. Our family, including my husband now, has loved these dumplings for years. Napa cabbage is terrific this time of year. A vegetarian version is simple to make by subbing the pork with black mushrooms and slivered carrots. And remember, practice makes perfect, and imperfect still tastes wonderful, so have fun.

fumikos-gyoza-dumplings-recipe1/2 pound Napa cabbage, finely chopped
Sea salt
1 pound ground pork
1/2 cup finely chopped scallion
2 tablespoons  minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sake
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1 package round (about 2-1/2 inches in diameter) gyoza wrappers
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup hot water

Place the cabbage in a colander and sprinkle generously with salt. Let sit for 10 minutes, so it releases its liquid, then rinse and drain well in the colander. Roll in a clean towel to dry.

Mix the cabbage with the pork, scallion, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sake, sesame oil and a pinch of salt.

Mound a rounded teaspoon of the mixture in the middle of a gyoza wrapper. Dab cornstarch and water slurry lightly around the right edge. Fold the left side over to the meet the right (like a half moon). Then, using the thumb of one hand and index finger and thumb of the other feed a pleat toward your thumb and pinch gently. Pleat about five or seven times to create a pleated crescent.

Heat the oil in a large, wide nonstick pan over medium-high heat (let the oil get nice and hot). Working in batches, arrange 6-8 dumplings seam-side up in the pan in the shape of a pinwheel (don’t overcrowd the pan) and fry for 3 minutes, until blistered and crispy on the bottom (but not burnt). Add the water, cover, and steam for 8-10 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Repeat with remaining gyoza.

Serve with dipping sauce. (Find our recipe for All-Purpose Asian Dipping Sauce here.)

Makes 50

From Cara Cara to Kumquats: Seasonal Citrus

By Jacqueline Church

If you think of citrus as the ubiquitous orange globes you see year-round at the supermarket, you’ve got an experience coming; winter is the prime season for most citrus and, as with most seasonal produce, there’s an exciting variety. A blood orange, with its bitter beauty, or a perfumey Meyer lemon, for instance, are exquisite examples of the joys of seasonal eating.

And just because citrus requires warmer climes doesn’t mean you need to toss out the local concept entirely; a CSA box of peak-season citrus delivered to you in Connecticut from Florida is relatively a lot more local than those navels coming from South America in mid-summer.

citrusFrom sweet to sour, salads to desserts, juices to cocktails and June to May, here’s a “new” citrus starter list with suggestions for how to use each variety. Go ahead and juice up your menu (or shall I say, add some zest?) season by season.

June to August

Key limes – Also called a Mexican lime (limon), this intense little fruit is only slightly larger than a walnut. Key limes are fragrant and tarter than our more common Persian lime, which is a hybrid that resists cold and pests better. Key limes turn yellow when fully ripe.
Try in: Ceviche, a dish popular in Latin America where fish is “cooked” by the citric acid in lime juice
Season: June – August

September to October

Kaffir (also known as Makrut) – Kaffir limes are used primarily for their leaves, which are dual-lobed with an incredible fragrance similar to lemongrass that’s essential in Thai curries.
Try in: Thai soups and curries
Season: September to October

Buddha’s Hand – Another fun citrus just recently available is Buddha’s Hand. Lemon- yellow and prized for its perfumey fragrant, this member of the citron family has “fingers” (hmm, wonder how it got its name …) and is often used in ceremonial or ornamental purposes in China and Japan. Unlike other citrus, the pith of Buddha’s hand is not bitter, which means you can use entire slices of the fruit (there is very little if any flesh) in your cooking.
Try in: Cocktail infusions and atop fish cooked en papillote
Season: late Fall to early Spring

October to March

Meyer lemons – Meyer lemons, a cross between a lemon and a mandarin, are becoming more widely available, but are still pricey outside their growing region. Not only are they sweeter than other lemons; they have a distinctly floral aroma too.
Try in: A variety of ways – from lemonade to lemon bars to roast chicken to pasta
Season: October to March

November to June

Kalamansi – A hybrid of Kumquat and Mandarin, these are sweet-skinned and sour-fleshed limes. Popular in Filipino cuisine, and also known as Calamondin, they resemble an orange to orange-yellow lime. Because of their sweet skin and highly acidic flesh they make excellent marmalades.
Try in: Filipino dishes or sweet and sour marmalades
Season: November to June

Cara Cara – This variety of navel orange has very low acidity and beautiful, rose-hued flesh similar to a red grapefruit. Cara Caras are great for eating out of hand and large enough to section easily for salads.
Try them in: Salad with pomegranate arils and shaved fennel over a bed of greens  (top with our Go To Vinaigrette)
Season: December – March

Kumquats – Originally hailing from China, Kumquats have thin, sweet skins and tart flesh like their cousin, the Kalamansi. They’re one of the smallest citrus, oblong in shape about the size of a large olive.
Try them: Eaten whole out-of-hand, candied in desserts, or stir-fried or sautéed in savory preparations
Season: December – May

December to March

Blood Oranges – Blood oranges get their deep maroon flesh (from which they get their name) from the nutritional powerhouse, anthocyanin (also found in pomegranates). They originated in Spain, but are also closely associated with the cuisine of Southern Italy. Moros (purple-red, berry like flavor), Taroccos (largest of the three and sweet-tart) and Sanguinellos (deep red and spicy) all have deep red or striated orange and red flesh.
Try them in: Cocktails, sorbets, salads and vinaigrettes where their vivid color and tart-sweet flavor add drama.
Season: Best November – May (depending on origin)

Minneolas – Minneolas are a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine and are loved for both their sweetness and the fact that they’re easy to peel. They’re distinguished by their slight bell shape and deep, red-orange hue.
Try them: Eaten out of hand or juiced for cooking (try Chocolate Orange Pistachio Biscotti recipe below)
Season: January – March

January to February

Bergamot – If you’ve ever enjoyed a cup of Earl Grey tea, you’re familiar with the scent and flavor of Bergamot. Its flesh, while yellow, tastes of sour orange; but its skin is where things get interesting. The oils in the zest carry Bergamot’s distinctive floral, orangey scent and flavor. Beware; a little goes a long way.
Try in: Salads, vinaigrettes or roast chicken, or in chocolate desserts like brownies or truffles
Season: January – February

Did you know?

  • The hundreds of varieties of citrus available today all come from three naturally hybridizing and mutating parent species? Mandarin, Pomelo, and Citron.
  • Most all citrus (except for Pomelos) originated in China and Southeast Asia, many can be traced back 4,000 years.
  • Ancient Egyptians used hollowed-out orange halves as contraceptive devices. Casanova followed their lead with lemon halves.
  • In Italy oranges, not apples, were believed to be the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden.
  • Most non-organic citrus is wax coated; scrub with hot water before zesting. Better yet, buy organic when possible (organic fruit is not allowed to be waxed) to get the cleanest essential oils from the zest.
  • Zest is the colored outermost skin layer of citrus fruits. Zest is highly perfumed and is rich in flavonoids, bioflavonoids, and limonoids.

jackie-thumbJacqueline Church is an independent writer whose work has appeared in Culture: the Word on Cheese, Edible Santa Barbara, and John Mariani’s Virtual Gourmet. She often writes about gourmet food, sustainability issues and the intersection of the two on her blog Leather District Gourmet. Currently, she’s at work on Pig Tales: a Love Story about heritage breed pigs and the farmers and chefs bringing them from farm to table.

Chocolate Orange Pistachio Biscotti

By Jacqueline Church

This chocolate biscotti recipe is infused with orange flavor. Much of the vitamin C from citrus is in the pith and peel which also contain its essential oils. Use a microplane grater to remove the fragrant zest, but not the bitter pith, from a well-washed Minneola. The zest and wine or liqueur lends an additional orange boost to these delicious anytime cookies.

chocolate-biscotti-cookies-recipe1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon Minneola zest
2 tablespoons orange Muscat dessert wine or orange liqueur
1 cup shelled pistachios
3 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, cut into pieces (about 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, cocoa, baking soda and salt.

In a separate large bowl, cream sugar and butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed. Mix in zest and wine. Add flour mixture a little at a time, and then pistachios and chopped chocolate.

Form two flat logs about 12 x 2-1/2 inches on prepared baking sheet. Bake 25-30 minutes, until slightly firm.

Remove sheet from oven and cool for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F. Transfer logs to cutting board by lifting parchment, then slice logs into 3/4-inch slices. Line the baking sheet with new parchment and transfer biscotti, cut side down, onto the sheet. Bake until crisp, turning halfway through, about 10-15 minutes.

Cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes 36 biscotti

Feast of Seven Fishes

Ask an Italian what’s on the menu for the holidays and odds are good there will be fish. A lot of fish. For many Italian families Christmas Eve dinner is synonymous with La Festa dei Sette Pesci, the Feast of Seven Fishes. The feast is thought to be an ancient one originating in Sicily and rooted in the Roman Catholic tradition of abstaining from meat during holy days; another name for the feast, in fact, is La Vigilia, representing the vigil of the birth of Jesus. Speculation as to why it’s a feast of seven fishes runs to numerous biblical interpretations, although there are often as many as nine or even eleven courses included.

feast-7-fishes-postIt’s interesting to note that many of the fishes traditionally included in the feast—like mussels, clams, calamari, anchovies, smelts and sardines—are ones we’d consider “sustainable” today. Which makes sense. The feast originated in fishing communities where “sustainable” wasn’t an ethical debate; it was simply how one lived. Healthy fish stocks meant abundance for your community, food for your family, and continued survival for all.

Local catch was always present on the Vigilia menu, which might mean anchovies or squid in coastal towns or trout in inland communities. Other traditional dishes include baccala or salt cod, eel and octopus (more sustainable choices today might be smoked fish brandade in lieu of baccala and wild Alaskan sablefish instead of eel). But the menu expanded as the Feast migrated, first throughout Italy and eventually overseas; today it’s a thoroughly hyphenated-Italian holiday adapted by each family to fit their own traditions.

One Sicilian friend of mine told of zuppa di pesce (a fish soup similar to Cioppino, a seafood stew familiar to West Coasters) followed by a Christmas turkey ringed with kielbasa (a nod to the Eastern Europeans who married into the family) next to a tray of baked rigatoni and meatballs. Another recalled catching eel (one of the traditional courses) with her grandmother the day before Christmas Eve. Stuffed pastas from Northern Italian grandmothers appear on other tables along with small fish fried in olive oil, and as families became more affluent, more expensive items like oysters or lobsters or langoustines often found their way onto menus.

Whatever the variation of dishes, one aspect of the Feast that seems constant is the boisterous fun that the large family meal entails. From music, to wine, to who’s cooking what, it’s often a meal with many cooks in the kitchen. Wine, sometimes homemade, will generally (and generously) lubricate the day’s activities. A meal that once symbolized abstinence has today come to represent abundance in many ways.

The Feast of Seven Fishes really underscores how many wonderful dishes can be enjoyed while eating with an eco-clean conscience. New insights bring us back, once again, to the wisdom of traditional ways.

jackie-thumbJacqueline Church is an independent writer whose work has appeared in Culture: the Word on Cheese, Edible Santa Barbara, and John Mariani’s Virtual Gourmet. She often writes about gourmet food, sustainability issues and the intersection of the two on her blog Leather District Gourmet. Currently, she’s at work on Pig Tales: a Love Story about heritage breed pigs and the farmers and chefs bringing them from farm to table.

Linguine with Red Clam Sauce

By Jacqueline Church

In keeping with the Southern Italian tradition, I added chopped tomatoes and a little wine to Rick Moonen’s recipe from his excellent Fish Without a Doubt. San Marzano are traditional; Muir Glen Organics are terrific, too.

linguine-clam-recipe1 cup water
1/2 cup white wine or vermouth
24 topneck or 48 littleneck clams, scrubbed
1/3 cup chopped garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes
Sea salt
3/4 pound dried linguine
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Bring 1 cup of water to boil in a large pot. Add scrubbed clams and wine. Cover and steam till clams open.

Line a strainer with cheesecloth and place over a large bowl. When the clams are cool enough to handle, pour the clams into the strainer, catching the broth in the bowl below. Remove the clams from their shells (work over the strainer so the juice is captured) and transfer to a cutting board.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for pasta.

Chop the clams and set aside. In a medium sauce pan, heat olive oil and garlic over low heat for 10 minutes, until garlic is soft but has not yet browned.

Add crushed red pepper, oregano and reserved clam juice. Increase heat and reduce by half. Add crushed tomatoes. Remove from heat and keep warm.

After the pasta water comes to a boil, add linguine, return water to boil and cook for 2 minutes less than the package instructs. Drain and return to pot over medium heat. Toss chopped clams and sauce with pasta and heat for 2 minutes. Toss with parsley and serve.

Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as a part of a larger meal

A Welcome Thanksgiving

By Jacqueline Church

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. – Thornton Wilder

Too many of us have experienced holidays where grudges simmered right alongside the gravy and proverbial eggshells were strewn about the room. Which is why I decided a few years back to make Thanksgiving a tradition of welcome in my home. In my house, Thanksgiving is about open doors, open hearts and full plates (and football) whether we’re talking a crowd of four or forty.

thanksgiving-welcomeAt my Thanksgivings, everyone always has seconds and leftovers to go home and no one worries about their weight, or if their job is impressive enough, or whether their date measures up. Each person is welcomed just how they are, which is why each year’s gathering is so unique. There was the year a surprise toddler guest smeared butter on the wall. There was the time Catherine’s Artichoke Dip slipped right out of my hands and down the stairs and I had to turn to my neighbor’s stove for backup. One year a friend was in the midst of a separation . . . and then there was the mis-measured brining incident. Don’t even ask.

My Thanksgivings are never perfect, which is what makes them—ironically—perfect every year.

Whether it’s family, friends, or some combination of both, here are some of my tips for creating a welcoming atmosphere:

  • Give Assignments Ahead of Time – It makes people feel a part of the gathering when they get to help shape it. Put someone in charge of bringing flowers, another of planning music. If you have friends who like to cook, parcel out some of the courses—I’ve taken to tucking my favorite recipes into a binder that I revisit year after year.
  • Put People to Work – People feel more comfortable when they have something to do (and it’s a great way to break the ice between guests too). Put a few to work cutting crudites in the kitchen, ask others to light candles or set the table, or recruit someone to manage the bar before dinner.
  • Mix it Up – Put away the china and silver and ask your guests to bring their own place settings (if it’s an especially large crowd, ask them to bring a chair too). Mixing things up actually helps people relax.

jackie-thumbJacqueline Church is an independent writer whose work has appeared in Culture: the Word on Cheese, Edible Santa Barbara, and John Mariani’s Virtual Gourmet. She often writes about gourmet food, sustainability issues and the intersection of the two on her blog Leather District Gourmet. Currently, she’s at work on Pig Tales: a Love Story about heritage breed pigs and the farmers and chefs bringing them from farm to table.