Any of my friends who go to Lebanon (or recently Emma in Jordan) know that the one thing I will ask for them to bring back is a package of smoked almonds. I love smoked almonds. If I let myself do it, I could live off of them for a few days. They are smokey and salty, with the perfect amount of crunch. And if you get them from the Mahmasa, or local nut roastery, they are still warm and one of the best things in the world.
Ever since I arrived in Eugene, Oregon, Emma and I have been hitting up the local Market of Choice supermarket, which is the best grocery store I have ever been to. Many supermarkets carry gourmet prepared foods, specialty products, or organic this or that. But the MoC has the best variety of everything. They have plenty of organic produce, local products from the area, hard to find international ingredients, and a bulk section that blows my mind. And it is in the most unpretentious and un-BS way that way I have ever seen.
As I mentioned, their bulk section is out of control. They have EVERY thing. Well, maybe not everything, because I am still looking for ajwain seeds. But the other day I spotted "smoked hickory seasoning"- in other words, the jackpot. I had bought some local filberts at the Eugene farmers market last Thursday and was cooking with them in every way I could. (You may recall our Filbert Berry Bliss Sundaes from last Tuesday.) But when I saw that hickory smoke seasoning, I knew that the best was yet to come. I dry pan roasted them, tossed them with a tiny bit of olive oil, and coated them in a few teaspoons of the hickory smoke seasoning. Badabing badaboom. Smoked Hazelnuts. Victory at last. I now have control of that smokey flavor that brings me to my knees. While nothing will ever compare to a warm bag of freshly roasted nuts in Beirut, I now know that I can achieve that smokey flavor in my own kitchen using local filberts (or whatever else I come across) and hopefully lure more people into my kitchen!
When we started out growing the garden this summer my mom told me that I had to keep a journal; “that’s what gardeners do,” she said—“so you can remember what you’ve planted where and how it grows from year to year.” I privately wondered if this would really be a year to year thing, but looking over some of her old garden journals I decided it would be helpful in any case. I share below some notes from the first few weeks.
Yesterday and the day before I weeded.
Tuesday June 9, 2009
I started planting things today. Four broccoli plants from our neighbor- 2 rows of lacinato kale, with one row of purple basil in between.
In the back garden I planted tomatoes and more basil (purple and classic). The basil will emerge in 5-10 days; the kale will germinate (same thing as “emerge”? different seed packets say different things) as soon as this Friday.
Also I discovered a tragedy that occurred on either Friday or Sunday. If it occurred Friday it was an act of nature, if it happened Sunday it was an act of me. When I went out to plant the tomatoes, I headed for the patch I had furiously cleared the day before. On the bare patch I saw four artichoke markers but no artichoke plants. Then I saw four planting containers. Instantly I remembered my mom telling me that she planted artichokes so I would have something to eat when I arrived, “artichokes just keep giving.” I might have weeded the artichoke plants. I don’t know how far along they were, and they certainly would have been ravaged by the tornado of the week before (a literal 80-100 mph wind tornado tore through our back yard days before I arrived). I still feel confident that I wouldn’t have weeded anything that looked like a functional plant- plus I know I’m an inexperienced gardener, but I know what artichokes look like. All this doesn’t really matter because the plants are definitely gone. If their tops had been blown off in the storm- would they still have born fruit? This answer decides the degree of my guilt.
Monday June 15, 2009
On Saturday I saw my little lacinato kale sprouts coming from the ground. That was exciting. My mom is convinced I killed her artichokes and has been on a mission to find more but the plants are all gone from the stores. Yesterday we got a lot of plants that now need planting: shiso, chamomile, lavender, cayenne, jalapeno peppers, butternut squash red Russian kale, epazote and baby bok choi. Our friend Nancy gave us a ton of heirloom tomatoes: coustralee, omar’s Lebanese, Caspian pink, pineapple, sun sugar and early girl. She also gave us eggplant and a huge variety of peppers. There is a lot to be done because we still can’t see the beds through the weeds.
Tuesday June 23, 2009
Yesterday the moon was in Cancer, which is supposed to be the best sign for planting, so Sophia and I planted a lot. More basil, to go with the tomato plants, greek oregano (for yummy Jordanian-inspired black tea with zaatar), French tarragon, cilantro, multi-colored carrots (my favorite are the light yellow-almost white- ones). The purple basil is peeking out between the rows of kale…
Last night we had Joel over for dinner. Joel is a young man who moved out here a few years ago, and works in landscaping in the Eugene area. He did a tremendous amount of work at the house when Emma was setting it up. We want to have people over for dinner, so that we can share our recipes and make friends. We prepared chile garlic bread, a nice salad with lettuce, fresh herbs from the garden, and some avocados from my buying spree (89 cent Hass avocados!); and a whole wheat linguine tossed with egg yolks, olive oil, rosemary, and truffle salt. We were passing through the gourmet section of the market, when Erick, one of the stores employees, saw us eyeing all of the specialty salts. He had us take a whiff of the truffle salt, and we were done. It is a $7.00 gourmet salt with flecks of real black truffle and is completely divine. I have a feeling that I don't need to justify this to any of you. I knew that a basic preparation, carbonara style, of egg yolks would showcase the truffle flavor best.
For dessert we made Filbert Berry Bliss Sundaes. They are really really good. We had hit up the Eugene farmer’s market yesterday and bought some local filberts from Hentze’s Family Farm. They were tasty raw, but when I dry roasted them and ground them up, and they released a full nutty flavor that was surprisingly sweet. The Sundae is now in our recipe bank, but it is basically a combination of fresh raspberries, ice cream, filberts, and a crème fraîche whipped cream. Delicious.
As we get into our rhythm of working in the garden in the morning and at night, we will be cooking away, discovering new things, and posting as much as possible!
I arrived in Marcola, Oregon yesterday afternoon, which is right outside of the university town of Eugene. There are plenty of organic food companies around us here- Mountain Rose Herbs, Mycological Mushrooms, and Yogi Tea are just a few examples of local companies.
We are at Emma’s house, growing food and filming our Summer season. We are so excited for our lineup, but there is a lot of work to get done along with the filming. Emma arrived a few weeks ago and has been weeding and planting away. Today I got my fingernails dirty planting eggplant, peppers, herbs, and squash. Emma has tomatoes, potatoes, onions, beans, and plenty of herbs growing already (she will update you tomorrow with her garden journal). The food is going to be so good, because it is grown right here out the back door. Just now, we dug up some baby onions. We briefly sautéed them before seasoning them with some special truffled salt and they were out of this world. They might just have been onions, but they were sweet and fragrant and full of flavor. That is the difference that you can taste in your food when you eat local- there are little nuances that surface in the ingredients.
I am looking forward to exploring the taste of "here", meeting new people, and discovering fun recipes. Tomorrow night: carbonara-style pasta with black truffle salt and market greens. Enough said.
Not sure what to get for dad this Father’s Day? How about a nice handwritten note thanking him for all that he has done for you? As I made my way to the Union Square Greenmarket today, a small stand with very cute handmade cards caught my eye. I love getting handwritten notes; emails and Facebook messages can be so fleeting and impersonal. Nice cards and stationary bring so much joy to my life when I buy them, because I know that joy will be spread to those who receive them as well. And their messages are permanent. I keep most of the cards that I get for my birthday, and often look to them for encouragement and a smile on rough days when I need my friends.
The cards I spotted are by Los Monitos Cards, and their logo of being “unique, handmade” is quite fitting. I bought a set of 3, each with a different style. The one going to my dad has a cutout of a bicycle with a dove (I am VERY into doves these days), and it says “father” in 4 languages, all in lower case, all with a period beside. I have no resistance to such cuteness.
On another note, today is Kitchen Caravan’s Birthday, and soon we will be putting up our 3rd Summer Season. We can’t believe how fast time has gone by since we launched on Father’s Day of 2007, and we are very excited for this season’s recipes.
We are extending the deadline of our Birthday Cake Flavor competition to this Friday, June 19th. Again, you do not need to send an exact recipe or photos, just creative ideas on textures/flavors that you think would be suitable for us to blow out our candles. We are already drooling with the suggestions that have come in so far and are eager to hear more!
Hi Everyone! I would like to clarify something about the birthday cake challenge. You do NOT have to submit a cake that you have made, or a photo of the cake. We are ONLY asking for suggestions of types of cake and flavors. WE will bake the cake suggested for the show.
Please send your submissions ASAP!
Hi Everyone! I will be at the Greenmarket in Union Square tomorrow doing a demo on strawberries. Strawberries are everywhere at the market these days and are at their peak flavor. The demos are meant to be simple, and showcase the freshness of the ingredients.
I am going to do Strawberries with Maple Syrup and Mint tomorrow, and I am very excited. Although this is a simple preparation, the flavors are awesome. I made my own "Strawberry Yogurt" by combining the mixture with some goat milk yogurt from Patches of Star. Here is the recipe:
Strawberries with Maple and Mint
1 pint strawberries, rinsed and hulled
2 tablespoons Maple Syrup
1 sprig fresh mint, thinly sliced
Roughly chop the strawberries or mash them up with a fork. Stir in the maple syrup and mint. Serve as a brunch side dish or to top yogurt and ice cream.
Notice a change? With our bright new background Kitchen Caravan puts on a party dress in preparation for our second birthday!
We launched Kitchen Caravan on June 17, 2007 with our first episode Manly Morsels (in honor of father's day... and because we liked the name). Last year for our birthday we invited friends to a picnic in central park, and made a Lemon-Poppyseed Spelt Cake (with coriander).
Now we're turning two and want you to celebrate with us! What should be our birthday cake be this year? Join the Kitchen Caravan Birthday Cake Challenge, send your recipe submissions to email@example.com by June 17th.
We'll film us making the top three finalists- and determine the winner by taste test- the following week. Then we'll post the winning recipe in our recipe bank.
You know what the judges like: fresh seasonal ingredients, interesting spices and food that comes with a story!
I don't know about you all, but I am very particular about my beauty products. When I find something that I like and believe in, I stick to it. Even if that means having to make several trips to different stores. And after listening to my friend describe the 20 different creams she applies to each part of her body yesterday, I have a feeling that I am not the only woman like this.
The only chapstick that I use(d) is Burt's Bees Honey Lip Balm. It seemed to be the only brand that ever came through on its label's promise. In fact, most balms usually do the opposite of what they promise, and I always find my lips redder and drier than before. Not anymore. I am happy to say that all has changed, and I have now found an all-natural, local source of lip balm. Yesterday at the Stonington Farmers' Market in Stonington, Connecticut (home of the famous scallops), I came across the stand of Studio Farm Products. They not only sell eggs, jams, and relishes, but a deliciously soothing almond hand cream and a beeswax lip balm that gets the job done.
The little translucent teal tube is simple, yet a bit cute. The balm is made with beeswax, essential oils, shea butter, and organic almond oil. It is the perfect weight on my lips- not too oily, and there is no artificial fruity smell. And as you can see from the photo, it is very competitively priced. I am afraid to say that I am no longer going to be buying Burt's anymore, and will be getting my lip balm at the farmer's markets from now on. For more information about Studio Farm Products, visit http://www.studiofarmproducts.com.
I had been hearing about King Corn since it's release in 2007. I finally watched it last week on my laptop sitting in the café car of an Amtrak train going from New York to Washington DC. The smell of warm processed meat filled the air, I’m not sure if it was hot dogs, pepperoni pizza or “grilled” beef patties (or maybe some combination?). Despite the fact that I don’t like or ever eat warm processed meat, I spent the entire ride thinking about how hungry I was. Even without King Corn, I wouldn’t have succumbed to the dubious-yet-tempting smells emerging from the Amtrak kitchen, but the film helped reaffirm my daily food choices and made me feel like being a bit more extreme with them (like making sure I absolutely never eat anything with corn syrup).
So, King Corn; for those who haven’t yet seen it and can’t guess from the name, is about the over consumption/overproduction of corn in the US. After finding out from a professor that our bodies are made up of corn (by studying hair samples), 3 young filmmakers move from Boston to Iowa to grow an acre of corn. Yes, there is something a bit gimmicky/lets-make-a-movie about it, but I can’t hold it against them because this premise ends up being an incredibly accessible way of addressing many of the major problems of our nation’s method of food production. And it’s fun to watch.
With their acre of corn the filmmakers touch upon everything from diabetes and the national health crisis, to the dangers of the American obsession with cheap food, to the perils of feedlots and factory farming, to the erosion of the family farm. I guess that doesn’t sound fun at all. But they manage to keep things light without minimizing the importance of their subject matter, which is often more effective than drilling the point home in a dreary way.
Highlights include: great soundtrack, nice corn-related live action animation, gorgeous shots of corn mountains, and interviews with Michael Pollan (whose work they say inspired the film).
Another part that made a big impression on me was the interview with Earl Butz, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, and the man responsible for the ills affecting our agricultural policies today- most notably paying farmers to overproduce monocrops. Throughout King Corn we see archival footage of Butz spouting off in the 1970s, making policy that it will take generations to repair, but in the film we meet him in a nursing home and we are given his perspective: farm work was hard and costly, now it’s cheap and plentiful. After their meeting with him, the filmmakers point out: “It was Earl Butz’s farm program that made our great-grandparents dream of plenty a reality.” He was responding to the needs of his time, they worked in a way but failed in many others. I feel like there is a tendency among many films about societal-ills to demonize "the source" of the problem, but the source is often just a product of something greater. I appreciate that King Corn didn't oversimplify things, we are a sophistcated audience and can handle some gray area.
So even though I missed the boat a bit, and it's two years after the fact: I do recommend this film.
Today at the Greenmarket, I was supposed to do a demo with asparagus. However, when I arrived, asparagus was going out, and spinach and strawberries were abundant. It was fun to have to change the according to what was in the market, which is what we should all do as shoppers/cooks.
Everyone loved the salad that I came up with, but since I did not have printed recipes, I told everyone to check back here later. Here is the general idea of what to do.
Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Vinegar
1 bunch spinach, rinsed and long stems trimmed
1 handful strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
1 sprig of mint
Few tablespoons of grated Queso Blanco*
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Olive oil (optional)
Salt and pepper
Place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until it is a bit syrupy and sweet. Remove from the heat and reserve.
In a large bowl, toss together the spinach and strawberries. Take about 4-5 of the mint leaves, finely slice, and toss into the bowl. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Grate the cheese over the salad, pour over the balsamic vinegar (and oil if using), and toss.
* A nice sharp cheddar works well on this as well.
"Growing in Harmony" an article in the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday talks about "garden guilds," plants that offer support to one another when grown in the same area. An example they give is the Orchard Guild: Apple tree for fruit, also gives shade to the spinach and acts as a trellis for runner beans; Runner beans give nitrogen to the soil, and is the protein to eat; Strawberries are ground cover (providing moisture to soil and fruit); and finally Spinach, which also retains moisture in the soil and gives healthy greens to eat.
It is a simple idea, but I love that economy of space and effort that this sort of thinking encourages. I recommend reading the whole article for more fun examples.
I do have gardens on the brain these days, as I'm heading up to Oregon to Play Farm for the summer... Apparently seeds and garden plots are anxiously awaiting us.