Market Chef : Tressa Yellig
Tressa Yellig of Portland’s healing foods store and learning center, Salt, Fire and Time, is one well-spoken lady. I mean, she really knows her stuff. When you encounter someone like that, you let them speak for themselves. So, dear reader, I give you this coming Sunday’s Demo Chef, in her own words, Q&A style.
Tell me a bit about what you do at Salt, Fire & Time. What role does food play in your life, both there and in general?
Salt Fire & Time is a healing foods grocery where we work with old world food traditions that treat food as medicine. We are striving to give people food that could be considered medicine, in a way that doesnt feel like medicine. The foods that we make are meant to be easily digested, so that they allow your body to absorb as many nutrients as possible. We do a lot of fermented sodas, cultured vegetables, even meats. A huge part of it is that we source really well. We make sure that the farmers we work with don’t use pesticides at all, and that if they work with animals, that they treat them extremely well. We want to really guarantee to our customers that they can trust us. It’s really just a little retail store, and then I teach classes all over town and do demos at the various homesteading shops because there is a lot of overlap between what they do and what I do; susatainablilty, food as preventative medicine, fermented foods, health.
A lot of people who seek me out do so because their doctor told them they needed to, or sometimes they just want to have a better relationship with food. That is how I came to this business, myself — I was seeking a positive relationship between food & health in my life.
Tell me more about what brought you to this work? Why is food so important to you?
Well I’m from Ohio originally, and I’ve actually always been interested in healing modalities. I’m one of those indulgent Epicureans: to me, food is romantic, it’s about pleasure. My grandmother was a pastry chef and food was her entire identity. I grew up with a very relaxed relationship with food – taking food from the garden to the table was just a daily thing. We kept chickens, had a big garden, all that. I grew up with a simple view of food, it was always something that was close to my family. I guess I always knew fundametally the way that food can make you feel, both good and bad.
In 2006 went to the Natural Gourmet, a health-focused cooking school in New York City. I loved it, I really responded positively. At the Natural Gourmet the whole end goal was to help you become a personal chef – it was very focused on ayervedic, vegan etc – all these diets that are focused on cleansing. But to me, I found that I really missed the revitalizing element – you can’t cleanse forever. There, I met a woman who eventually would go on to be one of the founders of The Three Stone Hearth in San Francisco. She reminded me of things I remebered from my grandmothers home – her food was similarly magical. And it just so happened that, according to what I was learning in school, these food that she cooked were the foods that maybe weren’t just delicious, but were also actually necessary for survival.
Ultimately, I moved to San Francisco to work with her and be part of her project. I became completely immersed in the food world. I ended up working in restaurants, but I got very sick – the restaurant industry is very abusive to the body and I quickly realized that wanted to do it differently. I wanted greater transparency – I didn’t want to work in that environment. I made some huge changes in my diet and lifestyle, and it was amazing. Being in the bay area, everyone talked about Portland as a food mecca so once I decided to make a change, up I came!
The food community here is so supportive. My conception of what I thought I was going to do up here has changed a lot – I thought it would be more gourmet, a kind of grab and go thing for busy professionals. But I listened to my custormers here and they wanted more then that. They don’t want anything fancy; what people really wanted was to particiapate in their health in a much more ambitious way than I originally expected. They’re smart, and they wanted more info, more substance. I’m happy to be providing that.
4. What do you cook for your family and friends? What do you cook when you cook for just yourself?
Honestly just a really simple roasted chicken. I’ve been making a version a lot lately, with just sweet apples and lavender, maybe a little sherry. I like really simple foods – I can’t cook enough ratatouille these days, either. Actually, I’ll probably make that this Sunday.
Tell me more! Clearly you’re a woman who keeps quite busy! Where can we find you around town?
I teach at the Well Spring as well as a new, local cooking school called The Natural Epicurean – I am actually going to be one of the staff instructors there. For the sast 2 Saturdays in September, you’ll find me at Mr. Green Beans teaching a preserving & canning 101 class. (Sign up HERE!) And of course, we’ve got lots of things going on at Salt, Fire & Time. I’m particularly excited about a pregnancy nutrition series that will be starting Sept 18th, and an intro to the GAPS diet that we’ll do in October.
Catch up with Tressa this Sunday 9/16 at the Market! See you then!
1 large eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes
Extra virgin olive oil
2 big bunches of basil, leaves picked off the stems
1 large red or purple bell pepper, take out the seeds and the pith, chopped
2 medium sized zucchini, cut into half moon slices
2 large onions, red or yellow, sauté sliced
1 head garlic, peeled, roughly chopped
2 pints of sungold cherry tomatoes
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
Salt to taste
Preparation: Preheat oven to 400F
First toss the cubed eggplant with a couple Tbs of salt and place in a colander (in the sink) to drain
Then, slice one of your onions and gently sautee it in EVOO until they are soft and translucent beginning to caramelize, now toss in your apple cider vinegar and cherry tomatoes and cook until they pop! Using a food mill or blender, process this mixture that you’ve made in to a sauce and set it aside
Now, in a skillet or other shallow frying pan, lightly brown your vegetables to give them some extra flavor and place them into a baking dish. They do not need to be cooked though, just get a good bit of caramelization on them (I always salt lightly between layers too). With the eggplant cubes, brush off a bit of the salt before browning them. They will absorb a lot of oil so be very delicate in oiling the pan. Once all of the vegetables are in the casserole, fold in your basil leaves, adding about 1 tsp of coarse salt on top and drizzle the entire dish generously with olive oil.
Pour the sungold sauce over the mix and place the casserole into the oven to cook for about 1 -1 ½ hours until the vegetables are very tender.