September 2017: Smreka and Sambal



A strange sort of weather, isn’t it? Some call it earthquake weather, a term which dates those of us who lived here in the 1989 quake. More than that, though, it’s an in-between kind of weather, an in-between season, not entirely summer or fall or yet winter. It can be unsettling, if stability is your thing. But the world is always shifting, even as we work to find our place in it, to hold on to what we love or what we want. Or what we want to eat…

This month, the recipes have come to us from all over the globe. To a certain extent, much of the world's cuisine is world cuisine; the peppers that lend fire both Szechuan and Thai cuisine are originally from South America. But in this month, it happened that the recipes we were drawn to seemed to come from cultures all over the world, and yet blend together like salt, fat, and acid, in combinations that made their constituent parts come alive.

We are always seeking out new flavors, and appreciate the authenticity of recipes that have remained unchanged throughout the centuries, a testament to culture and to place, stability and unbroken history. Yet we appreciate, too, to view these recipes through fresh eyes, to adapt and improvise with them as we find ourselves here, on the shores of a new century, in a changing world.

The city of Jerusalem is a stew of such complex culture and flavors. At times it boils over, but there is history, too, of intermingling traditions and cuisines, that inform and engage one another. It’s this history that is channeled in Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s joint cookbook, Jerusalem, from which we have chosen this recipe for tabbouleh. May it grace your late summer table, a welcome traveller from another land.



This next recipe comes from another part of the world entirely, but the two pair well; the cool herbaceous flavors of tabbouleh temper the red heat of fiery sambal. It’s easy to alternate between bites and cultures half a world away. A pepper paste of almost unlimited uses, sambal is a probiotic flavor explosion of wild heat and fire, hailing from southeast Asia. You can temper the recipe by substituting half a red bell pepper for some of the hot peppers…or you can double down and consume it full strength.



Dairy products cut the heat of peppers in a way that little else can, Hence, our inclusion of a yogurt sauce in this collection. Cool and creamy, herbed with dill and graced with lemon, this sauce is the preferred topping for grilled broccolini, squash, and other summer veg, as well as a welcome counterpoint to the fire of sambal. Add grated cucumbers, and it becomes something that resembles tzatziki.


Lemon Garlic Dill Yogurt Sauce

yogurt dip


It may also help to have some cool, delicious fermented beverage on hand. Visit the Balkans in a glass, for a cooling sip of this wild ferment. Made from the dusky blue berries of the juniper tree, it’s a way to channel the cool, misty flavors of a wild Sarajevo mountainside, any time of the year. Be sure to use juniper berries that are intended for culinary use; many species of juniper are delicious, but others can be poisonous. Raise a glass to the wild, delicious, and joyous meeting of cultures.  Cheers.




And lastly, here’s a recipe from the wild, exotic southern lands of…Georgia. Georgia, USA, that is. But the melon took a world tour to land here! The watermelon has been in cultivation since the second millennium BC onward, traveling from southern Africa, to Egypt. By the 7th century watermelons were being cultivated in India, and by the 10th century they had reached China. The Moors carried the seeds to Spain by the 12th century, and from there it spread as far north into Europe as the summer temperatures would allow. It reached America with the slave ships that sailed from Africa, and by the mid 1600’s was being grown in Peru, Brazil, and Panama. (Thanks, Wikipedia.) The seeds are roasted and eaten whole or as a flour in China and Vietnam, but here in the states, seedless varieties have come to be preferred, these days. There’s no getting away from the rind, though, green and unflinching as it is. This sweet, spicy pickle recipe makes use of the fact that watermelons are a close relative of the cucumber, with a similar vegetal flavor. The texture softens with an overnight soaking, though it retains a density not often found in a pickling cucumber. A sweet, spicy pickle of any kind was just what we felt this global dinner party needed, and since we are still in the crimson heart of watermelon season, well, this seemed to be just the thing.

Sweet Spicy Watermelon Rind Pickle
pickled watermelon rind


Garden Notes

garden notes

Workshops & Events


We're going to the Fair!
And finally, after our virtual culinary world tour, we head back home to Santa Cruz County. It's September, and for the first time ever, Mountain Feed is going to the fair!
We'll be putting together a demonstration Pollinator Garden, at the Santa Cruz County Fair, and giving a talk about the methods and importance of planting for pollinators. We'll also have one of our modular aquaponics systems on display; look for us among the lush, gurgling displays in the glasshouse as you enter the fair. We'll be on hand to answer questions about aquaponics systems, sourcing, management, and design. And as an added bonus, enter the raffle to win the aquaponics system on display at the fair! We'll look for you there at the fairgrounds, among the giant zucchini, jam, livestock, and more. The fair runs September 13-17th, check the event schedule to catch our presentations!

We'll be hosting an event of our own, just before the fair begins, for those who live closer to this end of the county. Author and chef Joshua McFadden will be coming to Mountain Feed on September 6, to discuss his new book, Six Seasons. We've featured several recipes from this book recently; peperonata and grilled artichoke dip among them. The man's got a way with vegetables, honed these last few years as executive chef and owner of Portland's Ava Gene's, which was recently named one of Bon Appétit's Top Ten New Restaurants. Pick up a copy of the book at the store beforehand, to whet your appetite, and join us at the store at 4pm for a talk and book signing by the author. See you there!

Over to You...

It’s part of our mission here at Mountain Feed to help you make delicious, sustainable, homemade food more often. Stop by and say hello on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. Or, as always, you can do it the old fashioned way and come by the store to speak with one of our in-house experts.
This journal and the articles in it were written by Jessica Tunis, unless otherwise noted.