Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Brown Rice Lasagna

Here's a really interesting and delicious recipe with a unique twist: Lasagna with rice instead of pasta!

Roots Catering Brown Rice Lasagna

For the Rice:
• 3 c. Massa Organics Brown Rice
• 1 egg
• 1 tsp. salt

1. Cook rice as directed on package along with salt.
2. Beat the egg in a separate bowl and add rice to egg ¼ c. at a time until the egg is warm. Mix well.
3. Press rice into a well oiled standard loaf pan.
4. Place plastic wrap onto the surface of the rice and cool completely in the refrigerator.

For the Marinara Sauce:
• 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
• 2 c. tomato puree
• 2 c. diced tomato (canned or fresh)
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 oz. onion, diced small
• 1 oz. celery, diced small
• 1 oz. carrots, diced small
• 2 tbsp. basil (dried)
• 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
• 1 tsp. fennel seed
• ½ tsp. oregano
• ½ c. red wine
• 2 tbsp. honey
• salt & pepper to taste

1. Saute the vegetables in olive oil on medium heat for 5 mins.
2. Add red wine and reduce by half.
3. Add the remaining ingredients, plus 2 c. water
4. Simmer for ½ hr. or until sauce is reduced by about 2 cups, stirring occasionally
5. Season with salt & pepper

For the vegetables:
• Use a combination of your favorite vegetables to equal 2 cups, small diced.
• ¼ tsp. red chili flakes ( or more to taste)
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• Salt & pepper to taste

1. Saute ingredients in olive oil on medium low heat for about 5 minutes and set aside

Putting the lasagna together:
• 1 c. grated parmesan cheese
• ½ c. ricotta cheese
• ½ c. mozzarella cheese, shredded

1. Invert the rice onto a cutting board and cut in 1/3 “ slice horizontally.
2. Oil another loaf pan and place some of the sauce on the bottom.
3. Arrange some of the sliced rice to cover the pan.
4. Layer cheese, vegetables and a little more sauce
5. Repeat process one more time ending with rice layer topped with a bit more sauce.
6. Cover with foil and bake 45 minutes at 350 until temperature in middle reads 140 F.

(530) 891-4500

Friday, May 23, 2008

Shrimp problems

Late Spring is the most critical time of the year for rice farmers. If you don't get an adequate plant population now, there is little you can do later in the season to increase your yield. And once you have planted the field, there are many factors working against you. As you perhaps saw in the video I posted, we plant the seeds by air into flooded fields. For a few days, all you can find in the fields is rice seed. Then things start to happen. Weeds appear, and race the baby rice plants to the air and sun above the water. The soil-borne eggs of several species of freshwater shrimp hatch after a few days under water. Most of these shrimp species are harmless, but one, the tadpole shrimp, nips the root off the rice plants, effectively killing them. The shrimp also root around in the soil, digging up plants that have rooted, and muddying the water so that little light penetrates to the young leaves. When the weather is warm, algae blooms are possible. The algae forms on the soil surface, where it does little harm, but after a few days, gas bubbles collect underneath the algae and it rises to the surface of the water. Then you are in trouble, as the floating algae forms thick mats that rice cannot penetrate. And to top it all off, Spring is the season of high winds in the Sacramento Valley. If the winds come when the rice is only a few inches tall and shallowly rooted, the wind-generated waves can pull the baby rice out of the ground. They float along with the waves and eventually pile up in the corner of the field, where they die.

All of these problems can be mitigated to some extent (except the wind), but you may have only hours to correct the problem before it causes damage. This year we had a period of very hot temperatures (over 100 degrees F), which caused the shrimp to grow very rapidly. They ate about 6 acres of rice seed before I caught them, so now we have to replant part of the field. The problem is that the weeds are now two weeks ahead of the rice, and will likely outcompete them if we don't do something about them. Draining the field is not an option (takes too long, and will hurt the rest of the field without shrimp damage), so we came up with a unique but drastic solution: "stomping" the field.

A stomper is a large cage roller that is used to push rice straw into the mud after harvest. Mixing the straw with mud helps to decompose the straw over the winter, so that the field will be ready for planting the following spring. A stomper has not been used as a pre-plant tillage implement--until yesterday! I took the stomper out in an effort to kill all the weeds and prepare the field for replanting. I have no idea if it will work, but organic rice farming is not for the faint of heart, and we needed to do something. My initial observations indicate that is did a good job of dislodging many weeds, and pushing the rest of them into the mud. It's a bit like running an eggbeater through the field, so the water became very muddy, which will help kill the weeds also by blocking all the light.

Below is a video I shot from the seat of the tractor, so that you can see what I mean. To run in water like this, you need a tractor with tracks instead of wheels, so I took our old Caterpillar D7 out there. My grandfather bought this tractor just after World War II, and it is still in use on our farm!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Brown Rice Horchata

Last week at a very hot farmers market in Chico, we served brown rice Horchata made by our friends at Roots Catering. To say it was good is an understatement. Horchata is a smooth, creamy, sweet rice drink from Mexico. It is traditionally made with white rice, but this brown rice version was easily the best I have ever had. Give it a try!


1/2 c sugar
Meat from 1 coconut, peeled and chopped
¾ c. Massa Organics Brown Rice, soaked overnight, and drained
1 c. blanched almonds, toasted
1 cinnamon stick
¼ c. half-n-half
½ tsp. vanilla extract

Put sugar and 5 tbsp. water into a small saucepan, cover, and boil over medium heat, swirling pan occasionally, until sugar dissolves, 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and allow syrup to cool.
Put coconut and 1½ cups water into a blender and puree until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl, pressing on solids with a rubber spatula to extract as much coconut milk as possible, and set aside.
Put rice, almonds, cinnamon and 2 cups water into clean blender and puree until smooth. Strain mixture through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible, then return strained mixture to clean blender.
Add ¾ cup of the coconut milk, syrup, half-n-half, vanilla and 2 cups ice cubes to blender and puree until ice is well chopped and drink is frothy. Divide between 2 tall glasses and serve immediately.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Planting Rice by Air

Here's a very amateur video I shot yesterday of how we actually plant rice in California. We do all of our land prep (i.e. disking, leveling, spreading compost), then flood the field. Next we load pre-germinated seed into a crop duster and fly it onto the field. That's what the video shows. You can actually see the seed hit the water. The planes all have GPS navigation systems so they know exactly where to drop the seed.

Those are our pet ducks in the foreground.

Why live on a farm?

Summer is back! It's now 9pm and it is still 90 degrees outside. Good rice growing weather.

Last night was so gorgeous that I had to go outside and take a few photos. I'm no photographer, but I thought these were nice enough to share. The first one isn't so spectacular, but I wanted to point out a couple things. The peak in the background is Mt. Lassen, a volcano. The golden yellow field is our organic wheat crop, which is only a few weeks away from harvest. In the foreground is one of our organic rice fields, which was just flooded and planted this week (more on that later.) These photos were taken from our backyard. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bale Stacking Accomplished!

Saturday was a great day here at our house. We had a bale raising party to stack the bales in the walls of our 800 square foot addition to our straw bale house. We gathered at 9am and the walls were complete by 3pm.

I’m up to 86 people in my count of participants here throughout the day… THANK YOU to all of you for all of the different parts you played!
It took many muscles to lift those eighty pound rice straw bales, more to saw notches in them, and even more to fill all the cracks with mud and straw. We had a lot of kid helpers moving gravel, pounding nails, mixing mud and straw, sweeping, and moving excess straw to where it needed to be. We had so many other helpers preparing and serving food, running errands for us, caring for the children, and our friend Tricia even got four two year olds to take naps amidst the chaos of the festivities. And it truly was a festive occasion. We feel so blessed to have had so many friends, relatives, and acquaintances gather to help us build our new rooms. We even had reporters and photographers here to capture the action and community spirit of the event, so that hopefully we’ll be able to further share this incredible experience.