OPB’s “Superabundant” explores the stories behind the foods of the Pacific Northwest with videos, articles and this weekly newsletter. To keep you sated video stories, we’ve brought on food writer Heather Arndt Anderson, a Portland-based culinary historian and ecologist, to highlight different aspects of the region’s food ecosystem. With Mother’s Day coming Sunday, she finagles “Superabundant” editor and digital producer Arya Surowidjojo to share his mom’s dendeng balado (Indonesian fried/jerked beef with sambal) recipe.
It’s been a busy week in Northwest food news. Between a camas superbloom and a grant for a shiny new farm and food center, there are a lot of exciting things to watch for. Though Mother’s Day is observed in May in much of the world, the date varies globally — this might be why Mrs. Vita Buena of Jakarta (Arya Surowidjojo’s mom) questioned the request for her dendeng balado recipe. When is Mother’s Day celebrated in Indonesia? Read on to find out!
Small bites: crying over spilt pasta, foraging for food finds and more
Freshly picked morsels from the Pacific Northwest food universe:
Camas blooms set Oregon awash in ultraviolet
Better late than never, camas (Camassia quamash) has begun to bloom around Oregon after extended cold weather postponed spring in much of the state. The plant is an important First Food to Indigenous people throughout the Northwest, treasured for its inulin-rich bulbs, which are roasted in earth ovens to bring out their sweetness. Because camas has a deadly look-alike — death camas (Toxicoscordion venenosum) — Indigenous people would bend the camas stems in half during blooming so they could avoid risks when it was time for digging the bulbs after the blossoms died back. You can spot the blooms in pretty much any damp meadow until around the end of May. The Willamette Valley showcases large swaths of the pretty purple asparagus-family member, or you can visit a nature preserve dedicated to the flower — Camassia Nature Preserve in West Linn. (Please note that this preserve is privately owned and maintained by the Nature Conservancy to manage sensitive species; while Google Maps erroneously says dogs are allowed, the Nature Conservancy does not allow dogs in the area.)
New science reveals how the sausage gets made
Courtney Flatt reports for Northwest News Network that the FDA has approved Washington State University researchers to use CRISPR to edit pig genes. The tool can allow desired genes — say, genes that make an individual pig more adaptable to a different diet or environment (increasingly salient concerns in a changing climate) — to be shared to multiple individuals, allowing these desirable traits to spread population-wide more quickly. Not the same as modifying the genome, gene-editing just takes the selective breeding practiced by humans for millennia and speeds it up. With gene editing research on cattle and sheep already underway (research on goats wrapped last year), gene-edited meats could be mass produced for human consumption in the next decade.
USDA grants $30M for farm and food research center
OPB’s Rob Manning reports that Oregon State University and Colorado State University received a $30 million USDA grant to co-run a new center for boosting farm and food-related businesses. The center will focus on four areas: two for small- to mid-sized operations, one to strengthen local supply chains for poultry, and another to help smaller food businesses working with OSU’s Food Innovation Center to scale up their operations.
Something smells fishy about the Dungeness crab decline
…or not, as the case may be? In a new study published in Global Change Biology, researchers at University of Toronto Scarborough find that ocean acidification resulting from climate change may be having an impact on the olfactory systems of Dungeness crabs, making it harder for the crustaceans to locate food. Dungeness crabs have poor eyesight and rely on flicking their antennules to pick up clues about where to find their next meal; without a fully functioning sense of smell, the crabs require 10 times the odor concentration before their antennules pick up the scent. (It turns out the old adage “we eat first with the eyes” may not be so universal.)
Watch the Dungeness crab episode of “Superabundant”
Uh-oh, Spaghettio: pasta spill in New Jersey
Last week, residents of Old Bridge Township in New Jersey were alarmed to find piles of pasta had been dumped along the banks of Iresick Brook. Unfortunately, the pasta spill came far too late to mitigate last summer’s crushed tomato and alfredo sauce disasters and required cleaning crews to remove the farfallen noodles. How did this happen? Since the remote township has no municipal waste service (residents must contract with waste disposal companies on their own), illegal dumping is a common issue in the township’s more remote wooded areas. Assuming the best intent, maybe the responsible party thought the pasta would naturally decompose, but this kind of mulcharoni just doesn’t belong in a riparian ecosystem.
‘Superabundant’ loves your mom’s cooking
Mother’s Day is Sunday, and happens to be the busiest day of the year for restaurants (especially for brunch) — but one of our favorite things to learn about someone is their favorite dish that they grew up eating at home. You know, mom food. You’d be surprised at the range of answers we got when we asked the “Superabundant” team: homey comfort classics like American goulash, avgolemono, matzo brei and tuna-noodle casserole are standard fare; ginger beef got a nod; cinnamon rolls and coffee cake that’s more streusel than cake garnered mention; there was even regionally specific Johnny Marzetti from Ohio, Chamorro fried rice from Saipan and Braaibroodjies (South African grilled cheese). What’s your favorite mom dish — or was your mom a terrible cook? Let us know in an email!
Good things in markets
If foragers on Instagram are any indication (as they usually are), morels are going gangbusters right now. Rhubarb plants are blooming, but the red stalks are still as good as ever (stay tuned for next week’s rhubarb frangipane tart recipe!) as the strawberries continue to trickle in to lend a hand for desserts and breakfast bakes. Like its native relative camas, local asparagus is finally showing up in markets, crisp and sweet. Look for purple stalked varieties if you want a little pop of color on the plate, but keep in mind they’ll turn green if you cook them for more than a minute. Greens, herbs and rabe/rapini are still lush and verdant; sorrel and cress are especially nice right now. Violets are in all their splendor, ready to adorn cakes and to be frozen into ice cubes for fairy cocktails.
Recipe: Dendeng balado
Whether or not you celebrate, we at “Superabundant” wish you all a day of mom food, and that’s why we’re sharing a recipe for dendeng balado from Mrs. Vita Buena of Jakarta (aka “Superabundant” co-creator-producer-editor-videographer Arya Surowidjojo’s mom). It’s a traditional meat dish from West Sumatra that lights up every family visit. She was a bit puzzled when asked for the recipe, since Mother’s Day is celebrated on Dec. 22 in Indonesia! This dish is called “spiced jerky” but it’s not dried; it’s fried until it’s chewy, then tossed in a simple yet searing hot sambal that’ll light up all your senses. Recipe has been translated from Indonesian and modified to American measurements; serves 8.
Note: we recommend wearing gloves when handling very pungent chiles, but if you don’t, just be careful not to touch your face!
2 lb of beef tenderloin with the silverskin attached (see note on step 4)
3 tsp sea salt, divided
½ lb curly red chile (an Indonesian variety; you can sub cayenne or other red chile), stems removed
¼ lb shallots, sliced
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons tamarind paste (seedless; if you can’t find tamarind, use 3 tsp of lime juice instead of 1)
1 tsp lime juice
Steamed jasmine rice for serving
- Slice the beef into pieces about 3 inches across and 1/4 inch thick. Rub the meat with 2 teaspoons of the salt and set aside for 15 minutes to marinate.
- While the meat is marinating, prepare the balado/sambal. Coarsely chop the chiles and shallots, and then grind them to a chunky paste with the remaining teaspoon of salt in a mortar and pestle.
- Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a large pan over medium heat and sauté the ground chile and shallots until cooked through, then stir in the tamarind and lime juice. The sambal should be glossy, fragrant and slightly softened. Turn off the heat.
- Place the sliced beef in a medium-sized pot over medium heat, cover with a lid, and cook until the juices run out and the beef is cooked well done, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the beef from the pan with a slotted spoon, add then set aside. [Note: If using a different cut of beef, smash the cooked slices of beef with a meat mallet before frying to further tenderize them.]
- Heat the remaining oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat and, working in batches, fry until deep brown and crispy on the edges, about 2-3 minutes on each side. As you finish cooking batches, remove the beef with a slotted spoon and transfer to the pot with the balado/sambal.
- When you’ve cooked all the beef, stir the meat in the sambal to coat, adjust salt to your taste and then serve with jasmine rice.