Showing posts with label food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food. Show all posts

Friday, June 16, 2017

a glimpse of fruit

Had I stopped to think about it, I would have realized that of course strawberry plants have flowers. Everything that makes fruit has flowers. I'd never seen one before today, though.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

rosewater and cardamom burgers

Like delicious collaboration beets, this recipe started with a conversation that juxtaposed unexpected ingredients. This time my frolleague Carl raised doubts about the prospect of cardamom and rosewater in burgers. I use cardamom for cooking with beef all the time, and I was intrigued by the idea of adding rosewater. I was a little concerned that the rosewater might be too sweet, but a quick taste reminded me that rosewater is not itself sweet, even though it's often used in desserts. Even Younger pronounced these a success. Here you have the process we followed tonight:

1 lb. grass-fed ground beef*
1 egg*
1/2 cup 4C seasoned breadcrumbs*
1/2 Tbsp cardamom, ground**
2/3 tsp cumin, ground**
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp rosewater

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Heat cast iron skillet over med-high heat and coat with cooking oil of choice (olive oil in my kitchen).

Form a tiny, one-bite burger, cook, taste, and adjust seasoning as needed.

Divide burger mix into four or six even portions, form into burger shapes, and cook to desired doneness in skillet.

Serve with caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, sharp mustard, and feta. Today, I had pita from my neighborhood halal market, but I would eat these again with onion buns from the regular grocery.


* Grass-fed beef tends to be less fatty than standard beef in US grocery stores, and I made a lot of unsatisfactory burgers before I started including egg and breadcrumbs as binders. If you're using regular ground beef, you may not need the egg and breadcrumbs.
** Sorry, I grabbed the weird measuring spoons.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017


My fridge is full of farm--broccoli rabe, rhubarb, whole chicken, ground beef, green eggs, cheese......

My fridge is full of farm, and it's bittersweet.

I stood at the CSA pickup today, and part of me was so happy to be in a relationship with local farmers again.

But then I stood there looking at the honey and the maple syrup, and it wasn't Rachel's honey and syrup. And I walked along choosing veggies that weren't Dale's veggies. And there were no flowers.

And I closed my eyes and saw Dale's smile on the back of my eyelids, and now I am sitting at the keyboard with tears spilling over.

I love my current life in the city. I love the fact that Elder, Younger, and I each rode our bicycles from different parts of town to meet at the CSA pickup after school today and then rode home together. I love that we also could have done this by bus or on foot.

I love the compactness of my current life.

Standing there in relationship with new farmers today, though, I realized that I have walked away from being enmeshed in agriculture, from being in relationship with farmers, twice now. Both times moving toward a more urban life. Both times moving to this metro area, actually.

My fridge is full of farm, and I am so sad-glad about it.

Maybe this will be the time that I learn to be both a city mouse and a country mouse at the same time.

Friday, January 23, 2015

warm white beans

adapted from "Cassoulet" in Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

serves 4-6
time: 40 minutes

1/2 onion (or one small onion), finely minced
2 Tbsp butter
2 carrots, finely diced or shredded
2 cans white beans, cannelloni or navy
1.5 qt. (approximately) chicken stock
6-8 oz.  cooked white meat, shredded or minced (chicken breast, chicken sausage, or pork)
salt and pepper to taste
garlic 3 cloves if fresh, 1 Tbsp if minced and pickled, 2 tsp if powdered
1 bay leaf (optional)

For chili flavor:
3 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
cayenne or other hot pepper to taste

For cassoulet flavor:
3 Tbsp herbes de Provence (the important flavors here are rosemary and lavender if you don't have the mix, use rosemary and thyme)
2-3 sage leaves, snipped to shreds (optional)

Do all the cooking in the same vessel. I use a cast iron pot, but a stock pot will do.

Melt the butter over a low flame and sauté the onions until soft but not brown, adding carrots when the onions are nearly soft. If you're using freshly pressed garlic, add it just after the carrots.  On the low flame, this step should take about 10 minutes.

Pour in the chicken stock (some water or dry white wine can be used as well), and turn up the flame to achieve a simmer.

Add the canned/cooked beans, the meat, and the herbs and spices.

Simmer until everything is warmed through and the beans have started to lose their structural integrity. Taste and add more spices, if desired.

Serve with crusty bread or crackers. Sour cream and green onion make a nice garnish for the chili flavor. Tastes great the second day.

Note: If you're starting with dried beans, the rest of these ingredients will stand up to cooking along with the beans. I've done it that way in the masonry oven. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

in the joy of fullness

There were eight extra people at Rambling Farmhouse this weekend, and it was glorious.

My friends being my friends, much of the long visit centered on the many meals we prepared and shared together. Even in the work of feeding five adults and six children, there was joy. The quotidian mysteries of prepping, cooking, and cleaning are a solid foundation for deepening friendships.

Today, we are back to three at Rambling Farmhouse, and I am tidying up, still so happy to have shared this time with Chris & Kendra and Erin & David.  These table linens on the line are a testament to friendships newly made and further deepened.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

bones and water

I'm just sitting down to some lunch on this second day after the third day after, but tonight's supper is already bubbling away on the stove. The scrap and bones and gristly bits of our Easter ham* found their way to the stock pot Sunday evening, and while we walked and watched a movie and enjoyed dessert, the gently bubbling water extracted all the best things left in these unwanted bits.

Just now, while waiting for lunch to warm up, I skimmed the fat and scooped what bits were left into the kitchen compost. The stock is beautiful: slightly viscous when still cold from the fridge, richly brown, and wonderfully aromatic as it warms. Now it's gently bubbling again, but instead of detritus, I've added nutritus. Those little tiny bubbles, so small yet so powerful, will break down the split peas, cubed potato, and grated carrots into delicious soup that even Anna, the Queen of Hating Food Mom Likes, will eat with gusto.

There's a metaphor in there somewhere. I can almost taste it.

* We cooked a fresh ham for Easter for the first time this year, and the ratio of edible to less than edible was not what I expected. I'm not sure if this is the nature of real, uncured ham and the usual stuff in the grocery store is processed into just the right amount of bone in mostly meat or if this is a cruel joke the processors play. "Ha, you want it natural, uncured, and without additives. Here you go. Have your natural. Bwah-ha-ha."

Kate and Anna's laissez-faire split-pea soup

1.5 - 2 quarts ham stock (if you've leftovers from a bone-in ham, simmer the bits in 2 quarts of water uncovered for three hours or so, chill overnight, skim the fat from the top, scoop out the bone and bits)
1 pint split peas
2 potatoes, chopped into 1 inch cubes
2 carrots, grated
pepper to taste
bay leaf 

Combine ingredients in stock pot. Bring to simmer. Simmer uncovered 3 hours or more, stirring occasionally. You can eat the soup as soon as the peas are tender to the tooth (maybe 45 minutes), but it will be more delicious and wonderful if you let the bubbles do their thing until it all just turns to mush.

Nice served with a dollop of sour cream in the middle of the bowl, freshly ground pepper on the top, and biscuits or soda bread on the side.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

On Whackadoodlery

     I know that on the spectrum of green living, my lifestyle is firmly within the realm of Crunchy Green Granola. This is a lifestyle that has evolved over the years, and most of the time, it just seems normal to me. Every once in a while, though, something happens to remind me how whackadoodle much of society thinks that I am. 
     Like the time, my friends gave me a tote bag which tells the world, in pink, flowery letters that "I might like you better if you recycle." Well, yes, I think recycling is important, but I'll like you even if you don't. Well, probably.
     Or the time we were hosting a party, and some friends brought zucchini and batter for frying. MMMMmmmmmm. As she handed me the roll of paper towels for draining the zucchini, Erin said, "I knew you wouldn't have any. I almost didn't bring these as I thought they might burst into flame upon entering your kitchen." Well, okay, no I don't buy paper towels, but this is a perfectly good application for them, and fried foods really are better when well-drained. I put the paper towels on the usually empty rack glued to the bottom of the cabinets by a previous occupant, and there they stayed for several weeks until they'd been used up on odd jobs. Paper towels can go into my compost sprawl, so I don't mind using them when available/necessary.
     Then,  today, when I delivered the soup I had agreed to make to feed coaches and judges at Sofia's gymnastics meet, the moms organizing the spread whipped out a box of plastic, disposable crock pot liners. I had no idea such things even existed. I watched in horror as they lined my crock pot and poured my home-made, mostly organic, from scratch soup into a giant plastic bag inside a hot crock pot. I said nothing. Well, nothing out loud. Here's what I was saying on the inside:
"Ladies, the crock part COMES OUT. Even better, it fits in the DISHWASHER! And even if it didn't, all you have to do is put a little soap and water in the crock pot and turn it on high for half an hour or so, then dump and wipe. Really, sisters, would you really rather eat plasticy food than clean out a crock pot?"
I calmly walked away, leaving them to their work. When I went back later to pick up my crock pot and the leftovers, one of the women complimented me on the chicken and rice, and noted that there's just enough for our supper. 
     I brought the soup home in the lined crock pot, plugged it back in, and am enjoying a bowl as I type. It's not so bad. Still, I'd rather be whackadoodle, even if that does mean scrubbing the occasional crock pot.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


My love affair with the Jewish holiday of Purim started with the cookies:

kate & erin & anna & sofia make amazing hamantaschen

What’s not to love? They’re triangles! With poppy seeds! American baking does not use nearly enough poppy seeds.

For years, I made these cookies every February, knowing only that Purim usually falls in late winter, and bakeries in and around New York always had these cookies that time of year. It would have been enough just to have the cookies.

The more I’ve learned about Purim in the last couple of years, though, the more interesting the holiday is. On the simplest level, Purim is the commemoration of the holocaust that Queen Esther prevented. It would have been enough only to know that this holiday celebrates one of my favorite scriptural stories.

The Velveteen Rabbi discusses the cookies and the story in terms of concealment and revelation. In the text of Esther, God works through Mordechai and Esther, though He is never mentioned directly. Like the poppy seeds (or apricots, or prunes), God is concealed, hidden from view. It’s a beautiful reminder to look for God in the people and events around us. Though, if your hamantaschen, like ours, tend to ooze open, flaunting their secrets all over the cookie sheet, this metaphor works less well.

I love the cookies, and I love the story, and I love the holiday which reminds me to enjoy them both each year.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Delicious Collaboration Beets

     So, I had this crazy idea for a party where all the guests would go to the farmers' market on their way to my house, buy whatever looked delicious, and then work together to prepare it in my kitchen. When I pitched it to my friend and colleague Erin, (inaugural hostess of Beer in a Kitchen) at our hazing the new kid talking smack about our  professors welcoming our new MA student bar outing, she thought it was awesomely not crazy. Joanna and Chad agreed with the not craziness of this idea. 
     Thus, two Saturdays later, I found myself tidying up Urban Cottage in preparation for Farmers' Market Brunch, and the doubts were assailing me. Would this work? Would everyone show up with watermelon? Was there too much beer involved in the planning of this brunch? But once people started arriving and chopping and frying and baking, things were looking pretty good. Then, Trey called from the farmers' market, 
     "I don't know what to buy. Are we going to cook it at your house? How is this going to work?"
     "Buy whatever looks good. Seriously. This is pot-luck cooking," I told him.
      And someone predicted he would buy beets. Someone else suggested it would be maple syrup. Or sunflowers. 
     "I could see that working," says my husband, "roasted beets with a maple syrup glaze and the sunflower seeds tossed in."
     I had to do it.

Delicious Collaboration Beets
1 3/4 lb beets with skins and tails intact and stems trimmed to 1"
1/3 c. sunflower seeds, unsalted
1/2 stick (1/4 c.) butter
1/3 c. maple syrup (this is an estimate, I eyeballed it, and then added more for more flavor)
3 T (ish) vinegar (cider or white)
salt and pepper to taste
     Preheat oven to 400 dF. Place beets in cast iron skillet or roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil, cover and roast until tender when pierced with a fork, about 1 hour. When the beets will no longer burn your fingers, slip the skins, tails, and stems off. Chop the beets into chunks of desired size and set aside.
Place a heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat,  when the skillet is too hot to touch, pour in the sunflower seeds, stirring constantly for two to three minutes to toast. They will be aromatic and begin to brown when toasted. Pour them into your serving dish.
     In that same skillet, melt the butter over moderate heat. Add the maple syrup, vinegar, salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Add the beets, and boil until the liquid in the skillet has thickened and the beets look glazed, stirring frequently. This may take 4-10 minutes. (The recipe I started from said 4; it took me 10. Perhaps because I eyeballed the maple syrup.) Combine the beets and glaze with the toasted sunflower seeds in your serving dish. May be served hot or cold. Still delicious the second day.

All in all, Farmers' Market Brunch was pretty amazing. There were cheesy, berry muffins, breaded zucchini, maple syrup, 2 cantaloupes, a gigantic watermelon, peppers, onions, tomatoes, and eggs, and bacon. We're totally doing this again.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I'm Kind of in Awe of Fasting

The Velveteen Rabbi is one of my favorite blogs to read because Rachel Barenblatt's introspective representation of her own spiritual journey inspires me to take a closer look at mine (and, if we're being honest, because it makes me picture a velveteen rabbit with tzitzit and tefillin).
Recently, Rachel wrote about "Approaching Av....and Ramadan" and getting ready for the fast and introspective prayer to come. Fasting as a spiritual practice, of course is not limited to Judaism and Islam, but neither is it part of mainstream Christianity.
In  high school, one of my Jewish friends was nervous that she couldn't make it through Yom Kippur, so she talked fasting strategy with her dad. One key to a successful fast, he told her, is to eat lighter on the days ahead, so that the stomach can shrink a bit. The Muslim student in our class bemoaned the challenge of observing Ramadan, though she was happy to be excused from participation in phys ed. I was confused by this foreign (to me) practice.
In college, I had passing contact with Ramadan because of the Kay Spiritual Life Center's shared worship space. We Methodists rearranged some of weekly activities so that the Muslim students could share their evening meal. Because the allocation of time and space at Kay is finely tuned to allow each faith group private use of sacred spaces, this was one of the few times I saw our Muslim friends in fellowship with one another. I could see the community that Ramadan cemented among them, but I still didn't get their holiday.
When I was first teaching, my shadow tutor and one of my students both observed Ramadan. Since the sun set during our evening class two days a week, for that month we had small snacks during the class. And, because the other students and I were curious, Ayrene and Misha talked about their physical and spiritual experiences of fast. I finally started to get it, and I'm in awe of their dedication.
The discipline of fasting is less about the physical experience than about the opportunity for spiritual growth. Time not spent on cooking, eating, and tidying up can be used for prayer. Physical discomfort can be a call to pray without ceasing. Radical fasting marks out a time as other than ordinary. The balance between energy spent on spirituality and energy spent on secular details shifts in favor of the former. My Lenten fasts, prayerfully chosen though they are, pale in comparison to the discipline of fasting for Tish b'Av, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan. I've thought about observing a total fast for a day or a daylight hours fast for a week, but I struggle to incorporate it into Methodist tradition in a meaningful way. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Nurturing Life

These are food. Let’s get that straight from the beginning. They are babies and they are cute, but they are food. That is why the hatchery inseminated their mother, incubated their eggs, and shipped them to us as hatchlings. That is why my friend kept them in with her batch of new turkeys while we were abroad. That is why they are in my yard now. Their destinies are Thanksgiving, Christmas, St. Sylvester, and Easter.
But…They are not food yet. They’re not ready, so I have to take care of them. Furthermore, I don’t want them to become food for the fox, coyote, or raptors in the woods around my house, so I have to take care of them.

In some ways, they are like having four more chickens. They share the chicken coop, they eat from the same feeder and drink from the same water tank. Their instincts tell them to walk around and look for sustenance at their feet. In fact, these four are even better foragers than the chickens. The tom has already won several battles on our behalf in the War Against the Slugs. The chickens, though, came to us as adults, while these are still very young. At the farm that started them for us, they were in a pen in the garage with hay bales for sides, loose hay on the floor, and food and water in the corners. They ate and slept in this area. Here, though, they have to navigate the ramp of the Poultry Chalet to find safe sleep on the second story and good food on the first floor. They range free during the day and have to find their way back to the Chalet in the evening.

While the chickens tolerate their presence, the old biddies are in no way interested in fostering and caring for these young whipperschnappers. So, it falls to me. The first night they were here, they bedded down in a pile on the lower level of the Chalet, so husband and I fished them out and put them up top. The next morning, I had to nudge them down the ramp to find the food.

Generally, during the day, they are happy to wander and forage. They make a yippy cooey noise that helps them stay together, though the smallest female has a tendency to wander a bit from the group. Periodically, I hear a different noise. When I go to investigate this loud peeping, I find them standing together looking around rather than eating, often in the middle of the stone patio where there isn’t food anyway. I lead them back to a food source in the yard or back to the Chalet, and they are happy. As a break between other daily tasks, I mosey through the property listening for their soft music and looking for the way they make the tall grass sway until I find them, and sometimes they come looking for me. As I was beginning this post, they were particularly peepy and distressed, pulling me from the kitchen to the patio twice, so I brought the laptop out to the picnic table where they foraged at my feet for a bit before wandering off.

They are amazing creatures. They take good care of themselves, but, like all young, sometimes they just want to check in and make sure they are in the right place. Right now, their right place is here in my yard, foraging for their nourishment and peeping when they need a nurturing presence. Eventually, it will be their turn to nourish me and my family, and we will get back all the nurturing we have given them.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

CSA box supper - week 2

We came home from Europe (I promise to blog about that later) to find the second weekly CSA box in the fridge (Thanks, Mom!). Since we'll pick up a new box tomorrow, we began the Tuesdays-in-summer tradition of making supper out of the bits of last week's box.

This time of year, the 1/2 bushel box is mostly salad greens and early roots like radishes, carrots, and an odd little turnip like a bleached radish. I really enjoy the greens. I missed piles of greens on my sandwiches in the winter, and nothing beats a giant bowl of mixed salad greens with oil and vinegar for lunch (crumbled bacon optional), but I never know what to do with the radishes and mini-turnips. Today, I had a stroke of brilliance:

Radish Turnip Slaw

3 radishes
3 mini-turnips
2 carrots
top of one green onion
(rice wine) vinegar
(sesame) oil

Grate the radishes, turnips and carrots into a bowl. Mince and add the green onion. Add pinch of salt and splashes of oil and vinegar to taste. Toss to coat. Taste and adjust.

Delicious! The anti-radish faction even ate it without complaining.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

in the kitchen

Read Write Poem's NaPoWriMo #22 a wordle

in the kitchen

saffron and pepper reverberate,
tappingtapping to open the door
their dizzyfierceness seduces
and I succumb
liberally sprinkling the spice and
a squall of sent wafts up
enticing the tongue

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spinach Haiku

NaPoWriMo #15

Spinach Haiku

so long have I
longed for your spring return
to my bowl, spinach

Note: An increased commitment to eating locally and in season meant that I wasn't purchasing greens in the grocery store through the winter. My brief sojourn in Brazil was a nice salad interlude, but for the last month or so, I have been craving a giant bowl of spinach salad, and I finally got it thanks to Bluebird Farm and Sustainable Greens.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

cookie haiku

NaPoWriMo day 8

once again
meringue cookie clouds collapse
failure *sigh*

Notes: This one is not written to the prompt for today.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


This is the product of my very first attempt at making cheese. I started with a quart of raw goat's milk from the dairy up the road, added heat, cider vinegar, and time. Voila! Queso blanco.

A whole new world of culinary exploration awaits! (Just as soon as I procure the necessary ingredients and gadgets, of course.)

So, you want to bake some challah?

This post is in response to Thirty Things to Make While I'm Thirty by my friend at Apple a Day.

Challah is not the easiest yeasted bread to make, so try this only after you've had French bread or wheat bread turn out well a couple of times.*

Hallah (abbreviated recipe)**

2c. lukewarm water

3 pkg yeast

8 c. flour

1 ½ c. sugar

1 ½ t salt

½ lb butter or margarine

5 eggs (1 will be reserved for glaze)

Mix water and yeast in super-huge bowl. Add 3 c. flour and 1 c. sugar. Let rise for ½ hour. Meanwhile, mix salt and remaining flour and sugar. Cut in margarine until texture of coarse meal.

Add 4 beaten eggs to yeast in the super-huge bowl and stir well. Add flour-margarine mixture to yeast mixture. If sticky, add up to 2 c. flour. Knead on floured board 'til smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise in an oiled bowl 'til doubled (2 hours). Punch down. Knead lightly and divide.

4 small-medium loaves 30 min

3 medium loaves 30-45 min

2 large loaves 45-50 min

1 super-huge loaf 50 min +

Divide each loaf into three long snakes and braid. Place in oiled loaf pans and let rise as long as possible (3-5 hours). Brush top with beaten egg and bake at 350°, time per size of loaf.

Some notes:

-In the Phoenix area, you may find that you need less flour for kneading, etc. because the air is so dry. Don't feel like you need to use all that the recipe calls for.

-Fresh, free range eggs with bright orange yolks will make a more dramatically yellow bread. You can also add saffron to the lukewarm water at the beginning if you want to amp up the color.

-You are welcome in my kitchen for bread baking any time you want!

* If you're looking for a good place to start with yeasted bread in general, check out The Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown. It is published by Shambhala Press, but should be available through your favorite book store. I like this bread book above all others because of his artistic approach to baking. He tells you how the dough should feel and behave rather than giving only times and amounts. There is also a nice section on different ingredients and how they change the bread. (In the muffin section, check out the recipe for Something Missing Muffins.)

** I don't have the un-abbreviated recipe. This is the way I got it from my bread guru, otherwise known as Uncle Jill.