Tracy Oseran digs into Portland’s culinary surplus for a springtime bruschetta.
BACK IN 2005, longtime Bluehour chef Kenny Giambalvo off-loaded a few tubs of fava bean purée and some fancy mushroom duxelles to Tracy Oseran and sent her off in search of Portland’s underprivileged population. “I had no idea what I was doing back then,” she remembers, shaking her head. Seven years later, the founder of Urban Gleaners scours the state to collect around 531,000 pounds of surplus food (worth more than $1,275,000) each year for Portland’s homeless shelters and elementary schools.
To help fund Urban Gleaners, Oseran turned to her catering roots for inspiration. With just a few volunteers, she transformed a former auto garage in Old Town into a commissary kitchen. “We just have one oven, a turntable, and some of my old records,” she says. Now Oseran sells “Tracy’s Small-Batch Granola” to a serious cult following in dozens of restaurants and grocery stores around the city, from Whole Foods to Bijou Café, to support Urban Gleaners.
When she’s not ferrying loaves of bread to elementary schools or baking sheets of granola in her makeshift kitchen, Oseran educates people about healthy home cooking. Every spring, Oseran and her team glean heaps of corn, squash, and peaches from farmers markets and hold mock markets for students and their families as part of her organization’s Food to Schools Program.
In the rare hours she gets to herself, Oseran returns to the legume that started it all. It takes commitment to hull and shell your way through a bag of spring’s hardiest bean, she says, but it’s worth the effort. The bright, buttery favas are simple and satisfying, whether tossed with salt and butter, thrown into soups and stews, or served on toast. “I barely even touch them,” says Oseran. “I just toast some bread in my fireplace, and mash the favas on top.”