20 Hoops in 20 Days

No, we’re not talking basketball here, but something much more exciting: a fabulous local organization, SELMA Cafe, raises money and volunteers to help area farmers put up “hoop houses,” which are basically long plastic-covered greenhouses that enable the farmer to use passive solar energy to extend the growing season to 10-12 months of the year  – even here in Michigan!

On June 15, SELMA started a project to construct 20 of the houses for 20 different farms in 20 days. Most of our gang at Fair Food Network signed up for a team work day, and I decided to lend a hand in a more concrete way – not by sitting in the office working on food systems projects in the abstract but actually helping to build a hoop house. And so on day 1 of the project, we (including my 11-year old daughter – honest, teachers, it was a worthy, educational project!) found ourselves out in Stockbridge performing hard labor.

I wanted to share some photos of the day – not much else to say, except that it was truly inspiring to see the approximately 20 volunteers, led by builder-in-chief Jeff McCabe (who ought to write the Hoophouses for Dummies book), put this thing together. We had to leave before it was done, but K’s conclusion (again, sorry teachers!): “I learned much more today than I would have on the last Wednesday of the school year!”

Hoop build 9:00am

How it looked at 9:00am

Hoop build 2:45pm

Looking more like a hoophouse by 2:45pm

To view all the photos, go to my Facebook album.

Grilled Scallops with Cilantro

Another invention of mine, totally NOT Chinese but using some ingredients common to Chinese cuisine and very appropriate for that ever-popular summer activity: grilling! Fish sauce, a very salty concoction made from anchovies,  is a predominantly Vietnamese ingredient but is widely available in both Asian markets and many well-stocked conventional grocery stores (in the Asian food section).

Serves 6 as a main course, 8-10 as an appetizer.


  • 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 T finely minced onion – red, yellow, or white
  • 1 T rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp fish sauce (optional)
  • 2 T oil – preferably high-heat sunflower or safflower oil
  • 2 T sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar, preferably brown or “raw”
  • kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • chili sauce (such as Sriracha) or chopped salted chilies to taste – start with a modest amount! (optional)
  • 2.5 lb sea or bay scallops


  1. Combine all the ingredients except the scallops in a bowl and let the mixture sit at room temperature for 1-2 h.
  2. Rinse and pat the scallops dry, removing the small muscle that sometimes remains attached to the side – this can be very tough but makes wonderful seafood broth or stock when combined w/ fish bones, shrimp shells, etc.
  3. Mix the scallops gently with 1/2 the sauce until thoroughly coated.
  4. Refrigerate 1-3 h, turning gently 1/2 way through.
  5. Thread the scallops on skewers and grill over a medium flame, approximately 2 m for sea scallops, 1 m for bay.
  6. Brush with the reserved sauce, turn, and grill approximately another 2 m for sea scallops, 1 m for bay. Do not overcook, or the scallops will be tough and the sauce will burn.


  • Grill the scallops ahead of time and serve them warm or at room temperature as an hors d’oeuvre.
  • The scallops are also excellent served cold in a salad.

do ahead:

You can make the marinade up to 2 days ahead – best to leave the vinegar and chili sauce out until the time you plan to marinate the scallops.