Field Notes, Modern Grange

Good Books

good books

Feeding the mind with good books is nearly as important as feeding the body with good food. Both ensure that you will remain straight and tall in all the important ways.

We’re devoted to all kinds of books — particularly those about food and farming — and have an extensive personal cookbook library that we share with our customers several times a year.

We host readings and authors and are committed to continuing the local “Luminarias” series with the Healdsburg Literary Arts Guild.

But perhaps most personally pleasing is our monthly in-store book club.

Composed of staffers, SHED regulars, and that person who is just interested in the book being currently read, our book club allows for far-ranging conversation from a wide variety of view points. It’s also a lot of fun!

To start the New Year in the most thoughtful manner possible, we’ve arrayed all of our favorite new and not-so-new books for display in our Healdsburg store.

If you’re not able to stop by, don’t worry! Here are some of the books SHED friends and staff have recently enjoyed.

Here’s hoping that you do, too. Please feel free to add notice of your own favorite book in the comments section. We’d love to know!

Friend + Staff Picks

Imbibe by David Wondrich was one of my favorite books in culinary school, it is packed full of useful information for bartenders. —Riley Schmidt, SHED Cafe Manager

Simple French Cooking by Richard Olney was one of the first cookbooks that I purchased. That was over forty years ago.  The recipes are timeless classics. The techniques in the book are the basis of European cooking. —Franco Dunn, Chef

I love The Holistic Orchard. It’s the best book I know of for caring for fruit trees. Michael Phillips is an unassuming farmer and tree whisperer. His solutions, literal and figurative, work wonders. —Yael Bernier, Farmer

Mushrooms Demystified is my favorite mushroom hunting companion, because David Aurora takes the science of mushrooming and makes it hilarious.  —Chevon Holmes, SHED Retail Liaison

Market Gardener by Jean-Martin Fortier is a concise well-written book on small scale farming. It’s my go-to guide when I am trying something new or am looking for answers. —Rebecca Bozzelli, Farmer

Joel Salatin’s “Fields of Farmers” takes a creative, enterprising look at a serious problem in our country: ever-aging farmers and the challenge of passing down agricultural legacies. —Evan Wiig, The Farmers Guild

Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate — Wendy Johnson is true local hero when it comes to farming for the Earth. Wendy was my first mentor in the farming world and I feel so blessed to have had her in my life. —Rebecca Bozzelli, Farmer

Heidi Swanson’s Near & Far is the perfect cookbook for anyone afflicted by wanderlust. All of her dishes are beautiful and healthy, and there are even recipes for travel snacks, in case you get the urge to buy a ticket and go somewhere.  —Stephanie Callimanis, SHED Grange Manager

I would [also] recommend is Diane Kennedy’s The Art of Mexican Cooking. This is another book that I acquired many years ago.  I wore out my first copy and am on my second. Diane Kennedy is the doyen of Mexican cocina. This is a book that I have given as a gift many times. —Franco Dunn, Chef

The Holistic Orchard and The Apple Grower by Michael Phillips. Michael lives, eats, and breathes apple farming and uses a sustainable and biodiverse approach in doing so. —Rebecca Bozzelli, Farmer

Perfect for meditating on the New Year, Finding Yourself in the Kitchen by Dana Velden is an open invitation to eat and cook mindfully, rest and reflect deeply, and give and receive wholeheartedly. —Katherine Harris, SHED Executive Assistant

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart is one of my favorite cookbooks. Whether you are a beginner or a trained chef, this book is all you need to make great bread! —Ginny Gilcrease, SHED Office Manager

Field Notes

SHED Community — 2016 in Review

As the SHED community prepares to face the interesting challenges that 2017 is certain to offer, now is the perfect time to consider and reflect upon the pursuits and triumphs of the year just ending. And a glorious year it was.

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Artisan Producers, Chefs, Craftsmanship, Farming, Foodshed, Healdsburg, HomeFarm

Introducing the SHED Pantry Line

We’re excited to announce the launch of the SHED pantry line, featuring a proprietary collection of powders, salt blends, herbs and spices, preserves, pickles, and Shrub concentrates drawn from the best ingredients prepared just as we do in our Healdsburg café.

Coming to fruition under the direction of SHED chef Perry Hoffman, plans for the Pantry Line predate SHED and its café. SHED co-owner Cindy Daniel knew that she wanted to do this before our doors even opened.

“It’s always been a dream of Cindy’s and really, it just makes so much sense,” Perry says. “It really came from the concept of utilizing the pantry that we use to cook from in the café.”

SHED Powders

A distillation of flavor, the SHED powders are a unique finishing touch that pack a punch. Available in one-ounce bottles, they are the essential taste of the vegetables from which they’re made.

Dehydrated in our own kitchens and then pulverized before being mixed with Jacobsen Salt, these powders are intended to be used just before serving to add a strong note to your good fresh food.

“I’ve been using powders for 16 years,” Perry says. “The tradition really comes from fine dining. They’re amazing flavor enhancers. When you dehydrate produce, you concentrated the flavor of that element.”

Perry likes the Charred Eggplant Powder sprinkled atop a bowl of yogurt with fresh chopped mint. He mixes it into vinaigrettes, and hails it as his “love letter” to the baba ganoush dip he adored as a child.

The Tarragon Caper Powder is a nod to traditional French cuisine, adding a note of elegance perfect for using to finish sauces. “Capers and tarragon are two ingredients that are made for each other,” Perry says.

The Niçoise Olive Powder is purposefully not powdered entirely. “We leave this a bit chunkier and just smash them into little crumbles because we love those little bits of dried olives,” Perry says.

The Shiitake Mushroom Powder is a “flavor builder,” Perry says, referring to its role adding umami to any dish. “Add it to a little bit of chicken stock and soy sauce and you’ve got this amazing stock that will add flavor to anything. It’s all about intensifying flavors.”

One in every 100 Padron peppers is hot, so eating them has an element of chance. Dehydrating and then powdering them for our Padron Pepper Powder guarantees that its sweetness will be tempered by a bit of heat. “When you combine them,” Perry says, “you get an incredibly wonderful, earthy powder.”

The Smoked Onion Powder features sweet onions and adds a gorgeous element of onion flavor to everything it touches. “Mix it into sour cream,” Perry suggests, “and you have a dip.”

SHED Salt Blends

SHED’s blends use Jacobsen Salt as a base and add unusual flavors to create finishing salts you’ll always want to reach for.

An incredibly versatile and popular offering, Lemon Salt can be sprinkled liberally atop roasted potatoes and fish. For dessert, try a pinch with vanilla ice cream.

Utilizing an increasingly popular Japanese culinary herb, our Red Shiso Salt is perfect for bringing a fresh taste to a salad before serving or for sprinkling upon fish.

“As a chef, you have the opportunity to cook this way because you have Shiso and you have salt,” Perry explains. “Home cooks don’t necessarily have that option. This is a way of being able to capture those flavors in a jar and be close to the same outcome.”

Made for chicken and perfect for lamb, pork loin, and other roasts, the Rosemary and Wild Fennel Salt is, Perry says simply, “a natural love affair.”

Normally not one to play favorites, Perry confesses that his favorite of the new line is the Black Lime Salt, which has a distinctly Californian take on a traditional Middle Eastern flavor profile. Limes are salted and soaked before being dried and pulverized, bringing an intensity to this salt.

“The wonderful aromatic flavors of lime are very dominant, so this becomes a umami flavor enhancer,” Perry says. He suggests pairing the Black Lime Salt with the Shitake Powder for a umami powerhouse. “If you were to add those two to your broth, it would be very full-bodied.”

SHED Shrubs

A drinking vinegar born from the need to use all of the harvest, the Shrub has recently come back into favor. And thank goodness for that.

Shrubs are the centerpiece of the Fermentation Bar in our Healdsburg store and our flavors always change to match the season. This new collection of essential Shrub flavors is just the start; we’ll be certain to add more as the harvest wanes and new herbs, fruits, and flowers become available.

Available in 12-ounce bottles, SHED Shrub concentrates form the base for a refreshing non-alcoholic drink but can just as easily be made with Prosecco or other lightly bubbly wines.

Whether Quince, Apple, Beet, or Grape — each SHED Shrub concentrate is made from organic ingredients raised by farmers we know or even foraged by Chef Perry himself.

What’s more, his technique for creating this concentrate hasn’t change. For a few hundred years. “We do this just as they would have in the 1800s,” Perry says.

Preserves and Honey

Having fresh jam made with local fruit is a hallmark of the SHED café and our pantry. A devoted home cook, Cindy has always spent part of her summer putting up preserves. Now you can share in some of our good fortune and bounty. Each jar is made of pure organic or even foraged fruit set with cane sugar and a good squeeze of lemon juice. That’s all.

SHED honey is raised in Sonoma County by beekeepers who respect their hives and the hard-working insects inside of them. SHED subscribes to the idea that we don’t keep bees — the bees keep us, as one-third of all the food that we eat is made possible by pollinators.

Pickled Vegetables

Fermentation is a core value at SHED. “We pickle everything. It was so hard to even choose what to put in the jar,” Perry says.

Perry loves eggplant but it doesn’t pickle well, so he made a gorgeous chunky Roasted Eggplant Conserva from it. He encourages us to use it as a chutney. “Yogurt is the most wonderful platform for it,” he enthuses. “It’s such a match made in heaven.”

Packed like the Conserva in 13.5-ounce jars, our Pickled Carrots are flavored with dill leaves, jalapeños, and black peppercorns; the Pickled Turnips with bay leaf, beets, and garlic. Both of them are perfect additions to supper, laid out on a relish plate to contribute bite and interest to a simple meal.

Also jarred up for a pre-dinner pickle plate are our Pickled Shiitake Mushrooms, Roasted Eggplant Conserva, and Turmeric Pickled Turnips.

Herbs & Spices

With this Pantry line-up, SHED is also proud to release its own line of herbs and spices, adding traditional everyday spices like cinnamon to a line-up of offerings that include the Middle Eastern flavors of Harissa, Zahtar, and Vadouvan. We have other unusual mixes like Shichimi Togarashi, Japanese Curry Powder, and Chinese Five Spice. Our own line of Dukka is already a best-selling staple. We even have six kinds of peppercorn!

Just the Start

SHED’s Pantry line is an effort to preserve the peak flavors of the season by pickling, preserving, fermenting, smoking, and drying ingredients to make jams, pickles, shrubs, spice blends, and powders.  It’s an attempt to better tell the story of good farming, good cooking, and good eating.

“We want to take all of the behind-the-scenes things that we make and showcase them,” Perry says.

“There are so many things that we have to make to stock our own pantry. The powders are a perfect example of that.  We want to show what we make, and how we use these products to flavor and enhance our cooking,” he says.

“And how you might share in that.”

Artisan Producers

Celebrating Our Fibershed

Our store isn’t called Healdsburg “SHED” by accident. Rather, we honor SHED as a suffix, a signifier of demarcation. A way to claim place.

The term “SHED” comes up in all of our pursuits. We are passionate about our foodshed, certainly. Fiercely protective of our local watershed, too. We see our store as a toolshed of sorts that you can go to for your essential needs. But perhaps lesser known is the role the fibershed plays in our community.

Locally, our fibershed stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the edges of California’s Central Valley. It’s where sheep and goats are raised for their milk, their meat, and their wool. Where textiles circle soil to soil.

It’s even a movement. The concept of a fibershed was formalized in 2010 when Marin County’s Rebecca Burgess set herself the task of creating and wearing a wardrobe solely drawn from textiles, dyes, and labor contained within a 150-mile footprint of her home.

It was nearly impossible to do then, and it’s not much easier today — but Rebecca started something significant by looking for local solutions.

Textile production is a gross polluter; inexpensive clothing has an enormous cost. From poor wages to environmental concerns, from working conditions to transportation obstacles, the mass global production of inexpensive throw-away stuff is expensive in a way that has nothing to do with our wallets.

As with so many other concerns of the global economy, the best answer to issues surrounding textiles is literally beneath our feet. Bring it back to the local community.

We define our local fibershed as the network of farmers, ranchers, designers, sewers, weavers, knitters, felters, spinners, mill owners and natural dyers living and working in Northern California.

And we’re proud to support their work in our store, both online and in Healdsburg.

Our producers and collaborators include Mary Pettis-Sarley of Twirl Yarn; Lily Reid of Apprentice Studio; indigo farmer Craig Wilkinson; artist Sasha Duerr; the textile producers at Caseri Ranch; artist and teacher Chelsea Heffner; and natural dye artist Chelsea Wills.

We celebrate our fibershed twice this month with special events.

Join us on Friday, Dec. 2, for a PomPom Party with Apprentice Studio’s Lily Reid, where we’ll use Mary Pettis-Sarley’s Twirl Yarn to make fun, festive decorations that are equally at home adorning your holiday tree as they are your winter cap.

Plan to return on Sunday, Dec. 11, for an all-day Fibershed Pop-Up Shop upstairs in our Modern Grange space. There you can meet eight artisans contributing to our local fibershed, support their work with your purchases, get something unique and delightful for yourself or someone on your holiday list, and learn more about why going soil to soil makes a difference to your clothes.

Learn more about the Fibershed project on their extensive press page.

Featured image courtesy of Lily Reid, Apprentice Studio

Cooking, Craftsmanship

Sourdough Starter Is a Living Thing

“Sourdough starter is a living thing,” author Stephen Yafa told us on a warm Saturday afternoon in August. “Think of it as being the union of lovers. Yeast falls in love with lactobacillus and together, they’re perfectly harmonious.”

Yafa had a bowl full of love with him when he joined us in our upstairs Grange to demonstrate his sourdough starter recipe and support his new book, Grain of Truth: The Real Case For and Against Wheat and Gluten.

Turns out, your main job with starter is simply to provide what Yafa calls a “honeymoon suite.” Yeast and lactobacillus, he says, “like to be left alone, fed, and to be safe in a warm, hospitable place.”

An award-winning North Bay journalist and screenwriter, Yafa fell upon the topic of starters and yeast and gluten and wheat and lovers when his wife came home from a spa day announcing that she had “gluten neck.” Whatever that is.

And indeed, what the heck is it? Yafa was intrigued.

Grain of Truth follows wheat from the good old days when it harmed only those with true celiac disease through to today, where the majority of the wheat consumed in the U.S. has been disastrously stripped of its nutrition and vitality and is quite literally making us all sick.

Like Tartine’s Chad Robertson — who also became interested in heirloom wheat and ancient grains in an effort to help his gluten-intolerant wife  — Yafa bakes whole wheat bread that has an extraordinarily long rising time, usually 16 to 18 hours. This extended fermentation produces loaves that those who are ordinarily gluten intolerant can consume with pleasure. (It is still not edible for those with celiac disease.)

But none of this yummy goodness can happen without the starter — a mix of whole flour, water, wild yeast, and bacteria that takes about two weeks to mature and, when properly maintained, can last a lifetime.

“The starter is the engine that drives the sourdough,” Yafa said. “It can be a legacy that you can pass to other generations.”

SHED’s pastry chef Lorrette Patzwald understands Yafa’s point of view.

“For me, the process of building a new starter is akin to bringing home a new baby,” she says. “You can glean advice from professionals and read about how to take care of it in books, but it’s entirely up to you to figure out what it takes to help it thrive.”

Patzwald has been so successful at keeping her starter thriving that she’s named it “Shirley.” Of course we’re not kidding.

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“Once I was able to get consistently good results with my new starter it was time to give her a name,” Patzwald explains. “Shirley is not just used for bread. She gives additional depth of flavor to the Little Shirley cookies sold at our coffee bar. She has also made appearances in pancakes, shortcakes, and waffles. Shirley has traveled to the Gold Coast of Long Island and to Greenwich Village for a bread baker’s competition.

“I often offer some Shirley to my baking students,” she says. “Hence there is little bit of her here and there around the Bay Area.”

Once you have a stable starter — regardless of its name — you have the basis for your bread. Using some of the starter, you add flour to create a levain basis for your loaves.

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“You’re doing a ‘build,'” Yafa explained. “The levain reduces the vinegary quality of the starter. You want to balance sour and sweetness.”

By taking some of the starter and mixing it with flour to make a dough, you’re also ensuring that there is enough starter to continue on to its next iteration. You want a wet dough, Yafa assured, and you want to slap it about to wake it up.

Several audience members gamely stood with Yafa slapping dough to awaken its gluten. He appeared to be delighted.

“You will screw it up,” he assured the audience happily. “Everyone screws up. So what. Throw it out and start again.”

Stephen Yafa’s Sourdough Starter Tips

  • Use non-chlorinated filtered water for both your starter and your levain to nurture the growth of good bacteria.
  • Use organic whole grain wheat or rye flours, not all-purpose. They’re more nutritious and offer more fuel to the microorganisms that will build your starter.
  • An electric plant propagation bed used to help sprout seeds is a nice way to keep your starter warm during its first few weeks. Place your bowl on it and leave it.
  • Buy a digital kitchen scale and use it. It takes the element of volume out of your recipe and reduces everything to weight. (Be certain, however, that you measure water and flour in the same signature. Yafa once tried to make bread with the water in ounces and the flour in grams. He needed a bathing suit, he says, to handle the ensuing tsunami.)
  • Try to use your clean, freshly washed and carefully dried hands to handle the dough, not a mixer’s dough hook. You can feel the gluten strands hardening and you can transfer more natural bacteria to your starter if you use your hands. Plus, it just feels good!
  • Need help, direction, or inspiration? The King Arthur Flour website is Yafa’s go-to site.