wow. so what’s a good excuse for not contributing anything delicious, colorful, temptingly delightful during the most vibrant time of the harvesting year?! i don’t have it. time feels like it moves forward so relentlessly, and suddenly may becomes…august? yikes. my life’s pace just keeps pushing forward. between getting a new job managing a garden downtown, running a relay across michigan, playing as a returning teammate in detroit’s neighborhood futbol league, things just move fast.

but today, dear friends. this grand wednesday, the seventeenth of august, i bring you stain pie.

prepped and ready, stain pie!

by stain pie, what i really mean is blueberry peach crisp. oh, the lovely and satisfying delights of michigan blueberries and peaches in summertime, swimming in a buttery, oaty crumbled topping! and, even better? doing it while wearing white!

this past sunday, i was invited to attend a diner en blanc–detroit’s pop up picnic in white, a la paris. asked to bring dessert for forty, i knew that crisp was the answer. clearly. and blueberries and peaches, saucing and mingling, would of course play the leads. but never did i really consider the danger of bringing gorgeous, purply, juicy blueberry peach crisp at a party with people all in white. HA!

oh, sweet crisp!

the night was enjoyed by all, and all came away a little stained. but, it was worth it. it’s worth it for some stain pie!

a little sunset, a little skyline, a lot of fun

stain pie

note: i used frozen ambrosia michigan peaches from last year, clearing out for this year, and thus added no sugar to the innards of this crisp

2 cups blueberries
2 cups peaches
1 tablespoon whole wheat pastry flour
1 lemon, juiced
1/3 cup oats
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
spoonful honey
1/4 cup roughly chopped nuts (sunflower and cashew for this one)
good sprinkling of cinnamon

6 tablespoons butter, cold

1. preheat oven to 375 and butter a shallow baking dish.

2. mix berries, peaches, flour and lemon juice, and pour into the buttered baking dish.

3. mix the topping ingredients, up to butter, till combined. then cut butter into 1/2 inch cubes and mix into the flour, using a pastry blender or clean hands to mash butter and flour et. al together.

4. pour over the peaches and blueberries, and place in oven to bake for 50 minutes, or until crisped and bubbling.


what says spring like rhubarb? well, ramps. but that pesto’s yet to come (stay tuned!).

rhubarb! oh sweet, sour, masterful magenta stalks of blushing deliciousness! the smell of rhubarb cooking on the stove takes me back to life on powell avenue or to n. west avenue, to the most beautiful, smooth rhubarb sauce so famous in my mother’s and grandmother’s kitchens in the springtime. if not sweet sauce, it appeared hidden, bright pink, beneath a lovely layer of oats, butter, and brown sugar– the first fresh crisp of the season.

but, savory rhubarb? rhubarb not as sweet side dish or dessert? now this, something new and exciting, awakens my palate, calling me to embrace the springtime.

last friday, i ventured on the most lovely birthday celebration of my dear friend, the great pickler, to romeo, michigan to tour small-scale intensive vegetable farm of a dear mr. van houtte. to our delight, we received a bounty of attention, bags full of spinach, and armfuls of hothouse rhubarb. apparently, romeo, michigan once claimed the title of top hothouse rhubarb producer of the country! (now, i do not believe i am speaking in hyperbole, but i am known to exaggerate a story for theatrical impact. i learned that well from those afore-mentioned rhubarb-sauce-making women in my family!)

with the help of the same great pickler, today i made ten beautiful pints of romeo rhubarb chutney. against my familial training and culinary culture, i opted to try a savory, slightly sour, and perfectly complex condiment. made lovingly with red wine vinegar, freshly grated ginger, a hit of cardamom and cinnamon, dates, raisins, and featuring holtz spring onions and dana’s detroit chives, this chutney will overwhelm your taste buds in a most exciting way.  spread on melted, raw chivecolby cheese with a microgreen melody of radish, mustard, and beets atop a toasted tortilla…. fantastic in the mouth and belly.

i suggest you buy a jar today! for a mere $5, enjoy the springtime treat on your favorite sandwiches, meats, and salads alike in the comfort of your own home!

last tuesday, the birthday celebrations continued. with enthusiasm and general festivity, we enjoyed a lovely dinner at los galanes.

little did the man of honor know, the real party wasn’t to start until after dinner. the surprise, pinata-infused, mexican-wrestled after party would feature fun, bright color, and rum cake. the classic birthday dessert at dinner helped keep the surprise alive (an whetted our palates for more sweets to come… who doesn’t love a little coconut fried ice cream?)

soon, the plan was in place, and we arrived at the house of the surprise party with neither glitches nor realizations by the birthday celebrator. and a party was had!

and this, good friends, is where the rum cake comes into play. before this night, i had never experienced a rum cake. but, after it was requested by the birthday honoree, i gratefully received a recipe (and a bag full of necessary ingredients!) from alex’s mom. and what a beautiful, delicious cake it was!

a show-stopper. a light, moist, rummy cake with a delightful rum glaze, and softly powdered sugar, the bundt, crumbs and all, disappeared by the end of the evening.

and so, the evening was a success.  a little mexican, a little surprise, a lot of bright costuming, and rum cake. a birthday fiesta done right.

it’s decided. this past saturday’s earned the title celebration station. yes, i recognize a general awkwardness that comes with naming a day celebration station– that seems like more of a place than a time frame– but the day continuously filled with minor celebrations, making each stop along it’s way a station for celebrating.

first, rising pheasant farms sold out of sunflower shoots for the third consecutive week, before 12:30 this time. these sunflower shoots, so tasty and enticing, really sell themselves. i’ve just had the great honor of working with carolyn, jack, and little finn in the harvesting, selling, and general promotion of such tasty greens. the first of many celebrations stations regarding the farm.

rising pheasant farms lettuce seedlings

after this great success, carolyn and i determined that part of the farm really needed tilled, and asap. with wet weather and rain in the forecast, a certain feeling of urgency came with this need, as tilling wet earth is messy, miserable, and not necessarily helpful. and, after a series of events, including the locating and collecting of two tillers on opposites sides of town, the plot got tilled! and oh! how great that feels. soon, friends, our table will boast of not only sunflower shoots, but head lettuce, tomatoes, cut flowers, onions, and more. SPRING has SPRUNG! (celebration station number two).

following the success in tilling, i scurried home to prepare a meal, a secret birthday meal, to honor a very exciting birthday. and, as this, too, was to prove to be a celebration station, i cooked meat. i know, i did it again. the main course for the meal? pasta carbonara with bacon, artichoke hearts, and arugula. this dish, based off a delicious recipe from sunday suppers at lucques, danced the line of heavy decadence and light springtime delight in a way so very appropriate for early april in detroit. a true reason for celebrating. this was coupled with a delicious kale and arugula salad with caramelized shallots, dates, and grated raw sweet potato, and a side of michigan ambrosia peaches, bought last fall and bright with sweet, sunshiney peach goodness. (celebration station number three).

birthday celebration station

while preparing his birthday meal, alex completed the construction on a new shelving unit suited for growing transplants. this, dear friends, is a HUGE celebration station. with many heads of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and flowers to boot, this shelving unit is the only way i can start rising pheasants farms’ transplants. and, an ongoing project, it feels so exciting to have it done. (celebration station number four).

in the beginning, there was a frame

and then, there was chicken wire


three shelves, HOORAY

and so, with success at market, tilled vegetable beds, delicious dinner, and fresh shelves, saturday’s celebration stations overwhelmed the weekend.

and now, for the pasta recipe. the crisipiness of the bacon, the sweetness and depth of the onion, the spicy bite of the arugula, and the soft saltiness of the canned artichoke hearts… this, the perfectly balanced late winter/early spring meal. warm and heavy, light and fresh, it won me over in taste.

pasta carbonara with artichoke hearts and arugula

based off suzanne goins’ sunday suppers at lucques

2 tablespoons olive oil
10 ounces bacon, chopped (try for local, antibiotic- and hormone-free)
4 eggs
4 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups grated parmesan cheese
1 pound pasta
1 red onion, large, diced (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups)
4 cloves of garlic, minced (just over a tablespoon)
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1 can artichoke hearts, quartered
2-3 handfuls fresh arugula
chopped fresh parsley (garnish)
fresh, soft cow or goat cheese (garnish)
salt and pepper to taste

1. bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

2. heat oil in dutch oven on high heat for a minute. swirl, add bacon, reduce temperature to medium high heat. cook for 5 minutes, until crisped but still tender.

3. meanwhile, combine eggs, egg yolk, and parmesan and whisk to mix, in a large stainless steal bowl. season with salt and pepper. drop pasta in boiling water.

4. add chopped onion, garlic, and thyme to bacon. cook for 6 minutes or longer, till onion is translucent and flavors are melding.

5. add artichoke hearts to bacon, continue to cook until hot and tender.

6. when pasta is al dente,  drain it and add to bacon mixture, cooking for 1-2 minutes, stirring well. at the end of this process, add in arugula, stirring to incorporate.

7. then add the pasta mixture into the stainless steal bowl with the egg/cheese mixture. the egg mixture is the sauce. stir to incorporate– the hot pasta and bacon cook the eggs, but do not keep on heat or the eggs will scramble. if the sauce seems soupy, the eggs have not cooked enough, and you can put the stainless steal bowl over a low flame, stirring until sauce thickens and holds to pasta. plate and garnish with a sprinkle of parsley, a glob of soft cheese, salt and pepper.

enjoy! wishing you celebration stations of your own!




purplicious. the most perfect combination of purple vegetables and deliciousness. a fantastic marriage of bright, bold color and tasty eating. oh, how the splendor of beets and purple cabbage delighted a winter weekend away!

two weeks ago, alex and i headed to northern michigan, excited to cross-country ski (even in march) at least once before the coming snow melt. we skied on a frozen LAKE! as a first time xc skier, my balance and coordination tried to interfere with the adventure. but, no such interference could be realized, not with dramatic layers of clouds lacing the grey skies, the wind whistling across the open lake, the white snow so crisp and bright. the wonder of winter inspired and out-preformed my clumsy skiing.

our stomaches demanded attention after the skiing adventure, growling for some nutritious love. and, with a little purple cabbage, spinach, toasted sunflower seeds, and a simple balsamic mustard dressing, they were happily sated.

this, the first course of an evening of culinary delights, has been gaining popularity on our list of favorite winter salads, closely competing with raw beets and carrots for number one. the sweetness of the shredded cabbage, crisp and raw, dressed with a dressing of stone-ground mustard and balsamic vinegar… just amazing.

our meal finished with roasted beets and roasted michigan white fish. and, as our trip was short and sweet, alex had the most inspired idea to make beet pancakes the following morning with the leftover beets. he shredded them gingerly, and folded them into the pancake batter. genius.

earthy, florescent, and sweet, these pancakes had both color and flavor superior to their non-beet brothers and sisters. these pancakes made the day.

proudly clean-platers, we put these pancakes safely into our bellies with no delay.

long live the purple vegetables! let the purplicious power overtake your kitchen too, adding some powerful color to the ensuing grey march/april showers!

i great you on this most presidential of federal holidays from snowy detroit. snow-magedon 2011, the disappointment that it was, has quickly been replaced by presidential snow storm 2011, where a blissful, yet heavy snow graced our dear city last evening. enthusiastically, i embraced the snow (which came so aptly to re-freeze our springtime hopes after a mid-week winter hiatus with 50 degree weather), taking my sign from mother nature that i was not meant to go into work today. instead, i’ve romped through the snow with some lovely neighbors, attempted to make strides in some knitting projects (hoping to get them done before the sweet warmth of spring sun arrives), and made a giant chocolate chip dried fruit sunflower seed cookie.

one large cookie

it’s been a crazy couple of weeks. my parents traversed to the motor city last weekend, and i had the great pleasure of sharing them with good friends and showing them some of my favorite spots (eastern market, supino’s pizza, foran’s grand trunk, the detroit zen center). following their friday/saturday visit, i moved from my cozy Villages neighborhood (my home for all my time in Detroit!) to Corktown, the oldest neighborhood in detroit. thank goodness i made the move pre-snow-extravaganza!

view from the sunset window

thankfully, my new home comes with a most amazing feature: the sunset window!

pre-baked goodness

so, following the week of general craze, this monday i am very happy to have a day off work and a day to officially break in my brand new cast iron skillet. nothing like butter and sugar to break that baby in.

i must say, i am quite pleased with the results. my roommate and i happily tasted a slice (mine was rather large) and determined that cast iron + chocolate chip (etc) cookies = satisfyingly delicious texture, flavor, and the like. you should make your batch today!

skillet chocolate chip (etc) cookies

adapted from heidi swanson’s 101 cookbooks

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup mix of oats, ground flax, and ground sesame seed
1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
heavy sprinkle of cinnamon
8 ounces (2 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups mixed semi-sweet chocolate chips, toasted sunflower seeds, and dried blueberries/cranberries/cherries/raisins
a hungry stomach (!)

1. preheat oven to 350. butter a large cast iron skillet.

2. combine dry ingredients (flour through cinnamon) in a bowl, whisk to combine.

3. in a standing mixer, combine butter, sugar, and molasses on slow speed for about 2 minutes, till fully combined. add an egg at a time, then vanilla, mixing till smoothly incorporated. then add dry ingredients, mixing until just combined, can still look a bit floury. here, add most of the chocolate chips/sunflower seeds/dried fruit, and gently combine.

4. spread this mixture in the buttered skillet, top with remaining chocolate chips/sunflower seeds/dried fruit. bake for 35-45 minutes, till brown around the edges and center is mostly set.

enjoy! with a giant, soft, freshly baked cookie to share, i wish a very merry president’s day to you and yours.

the savory crunch

happy snow-magedon 2011! while detroit sadly missed much of the blizzardy excitement predicted, i must admit, this day “off” enjoying the snow, a warm fire, and the general amusement of an over-hyped, missed winter catastrophe has kept me quite satisfied. there is nothing quite like snuggling up to “personal finance for dummies” while listening to my neighbors chirp and bellow as they socially shovel the snow… and nothing like said activities to motivate me to share this epiphany of epiphanies with you: savory granola!

before honey-ing

what?! you say. how have i not thought of that?! well, friends, that is the precise response i had when reading saveur issue #135 for jan/feb 2011. mind you, i read the majority of this magazine while furiously ellipticalling… funny how food magazines motivate my exercise routines… regardless! i stumbled across this page and new instantly that this article on savory granola was meant for my eyes only. DUH! i exclaimed to myself! that’s GENIUS!

the beets, peeled and ready

of course, i did not follow the recipe exactly, but closely; mine transformed to take on a sort of mexican essence. i used parsley instead of basil, pepitas for pine nuts, flax seeds for basil seeds, paprika for piment d’espelette, and i added oats. i did pair it beautifully with deep magenta, gorgeous beets from the lovely folks at holtz farms. the beets, the granola, and the globs of zingerman’s soft cow cheese (i think that’s the cheese, i know it was zingerman’s, but my housemate bought it, so i am going on a gut feeling on this one!), my goodness, the dish was not only delicious but delightful to see!

oh, sweet gems of earthy delight!

served as the first course in the meal featuring the roasted poblano sauce that changed my world (i realize how dramatic my writing is regarding food. i suppose hyperbole + food = happy gwen!), the event  was quickly on its way to become a satiating experience for all.

plated and ready for cheese

savory granola
adapted from provençal granola by chef daniel humm of eleven madison park, nyc, issue #135 saveur magazine

1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup parsley leaves
2 cups puffed rice
1 cup pepitas
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons flax seeds
2 teaspoons paprika
salt, to taste
1/4-1/2 cup oats, old-fashioned
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup michigan honey

1. heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. add parsley leaves in batches, fry until crisp, about 10 seconds. transfer to paper towel to drain and cool. add to a bowl with puffed rice, pepitas, parmesan, flax seeds, paprika, salt, garlic, and oats.

2. heat the oven to 250. heat honey in a small saucepan over medium heat until loose, then pour over the ingredients in the bowl, toss to coat. transfer onto a jelly roll sheet and spread out evenly.

3. bake, stirring occasionally, until toasted or golden brown, about 40 minutes. allow to cool completely in pan. store in tupperware for up to 2 weeks.

have fun adding this to salads, soups and the like! where do you think you’ll use savory granola in your cooking and baking adventures? enjoy!

oh, the glorious crema de rajas!

i am not a super saucy person. well, maybe that’s not true. i love salsa. i love tomato sauce (although, not as a child. i was a “naked noodles” kind of girl, for sure. butter, parmesan, and alphabet pasta and i was a happy camper). i love guacamole. chutneys, fruit preserves and the like, if those qualify as sauces. but i’ve claimed for some time that creamy sauces are just not for me. what a lie i’ve been telling myself these last 25 years.

friends, i am happy to announce my deep, unwavering love and appreciation for creamy sauce. but not just any creamy sauce. rick bayless’s roasted poblano sauce, the sauce that changed my world.

roasting & blistering poblanos

it all started with my saturday visit to eastern market. the day after my birthday (which was last friday… yes, i’ve reached that pivotal age of 25. 1/4 way to my centennial…), we didn’t get to the market until late, especially considering the slow, lazy, quiet pace of the mid-winter market. the sheds stood nearly vacant, most vendors already packed up and gone. one of the stragglers, though, working hard to clear the rest of his produce, hustled me a bag of crisp evergreen-colored poblanos for a measly $2. unsure of what to do with these deep green peppers, i left them safely in the fridge until tuesday. in the meantime, i consulted my boss for any inspirational ideas.

smiling, she handed me rick bayless’s mexican kitchen. eagerly, i scoped the book from cover to cover, delighted by the flavors and herbs and ideas his recipes created in my mind.

blackened and ready for peeling

i settled on a recipe for a poblano sauce that accompanied fish or chicken, i think. all i know is that my vision for this particular main course consisted of these items: delicious, soupy homemade black beans (another rick bayless recipes); crispy allium polenta, showing off the ever flavorful scallions, garlic, onions, and leeks that never linger long in my kitchen (they’re too tasty!); a light and happy green poblano sauce of some sort; a dollop of crema del encanto (gracias al marqueta la colmena); and sunflower sprouts from raw detroit community farms.

what i got? a most amazing meal.


while i’ve returned the book to work, thus lacking the base recipe by mr. bayless, i can tell you these key things.

1. roast 6 or so poblanos either over your gas stovetop or under the broiler, till blackened and blistered. cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow to steam for 5 or so minutes. this will make the peeling so much easier. peel and core and seed the peppers, cutting into 1/4 inch strips.

roasted and ready

2. brown up onions (in my case 1/2 a white onion and 2 leeks) until crisp over medium high heat, for about 5 minutes.

3. add 3 gloves of minced garlic, thyme, and oregano, continue to cook for 1 minute. add the poblano strips, and cook until heated through.

4. add 1/2 cup of crema del encanto (sour cream, creme fraiche, or any such dairy product will do), and cook for 2 to 4 minutes, simmering softly.

onions, peppers, and crema, oh my!

onions, peppers, and crema, oh my!

5. add this mix to a food processor along with another 1/2 cup of crema, blend until it reaches the smoothness you desire. i added some calder’s milk here to thin it a bit, so that i could effectively drizzle for presentational purposes. but, in all honesty, i could have just eaten the sauce as soup and called it a night.

yes, this stuff is that good.

since its original debut on wednesday, i’ve happily demanded green spoonfuls of crema de rajas at every meal since. try it out!

side note: i still have squash butter for sale! also, i have some mixed berry jam (limited availability!), packed with mulberries, red currants, and gooseberries! all $6 a jar. let me know if you’re interested!

a very merry middle of january to you all.

the detroit blustery, gray haze captured my heart and soul and enthusiasm and ate it for a mid-hibernation snack, leaving me feeling like a victim of a dementor attack (harry potter reference, i know, i know… too bad my part honey-bee part cow patronus is off on vacation somewhere sunny). i am sucked up, drained out, tired, and somewhat listless. i think i’ve caught the seasonal depression bug my mom always talked about when i was a kid, in the gray ohioan winters. there is a calm beauty to this gray, for sure, but i really could use a day of unceasing sunshine.

in spite of such glum, on monday, the productivity fairy shocked me with a surge of energy (albeit short lived). monday was the day. the four, 10-15 pound pink banana squash i purchased late last fall, those wild, dinosaur-esque beauties, their day of processing finally arrived. my hopes and dreams, to become a processor of michigan produce into delicious value-added products, greeted me with a crazed exuberance. pink banana squash butter, here i came.

sawing those squashes in half, in quarters, scraping the seeds, oiling, salting, and throwing them in the oven. it may not sound like a lot, but friends, it’s a whole lotta squash. a whole lot. my housemate and i agreed that i should just stuff the oven FULL of them, get ’em done in one swift roasting. i stacked, i pieced, and ordered them (trying hard to follow the organizational example of papa du-ane lee meyer, who is an organizing genius… seriously, check out our christmas tree ornament box. when he puts them away, ALL of them fit neatly into one large box. when any other member of the meyer clan attempts such a task, two to three boxes are necessary…). and all seemed well in the world. and all was well in the world.


red hot embers


so lisa and i celebrated the way we only can with the help of our wood-burning stove: marshmallow s’more sundaes. there’s really no better way to celebrate the pursuit of one’s life dreams. red-hot golden embers, gently kissing the soft fluff of the mallow, browning the white flesh to a crisped golden brown, warm sander’s hot fudge, crunchy graham crackers, and vanilla ice cream. this celebration entertained not only our house, but our mouths as well.


the mallow s'more sundae extraordinaire


meanwhile, a couple of things happened. first, so distracted by my taste-buds’ happy tango with the sundae, i failed to realize the accumulation of smoke on our first floor. lisa, less captivated by our treat and more observant to the “here and now”, nudged me to check on my squash, on my dreams. as we entered the kitchen, i felt a shift in the energy surrounding my perceived evening of wild productivity. the squash needed some love.


smoking up the house


recognizing their duress, i quickly determined the squash really needed some water in the base of their pan. this would allow for a quicker cooking, as the steam from the water would work its way through the thick, orange flesh, enticing a lovely, buttery, smooth end product. what i did not consider was the consequence of such an action: exploding glass. dear friends, i know it seems obvious, and sitting on this side of the ordeal, it’s crystal clear. do not pour water on piping hot glass and expect that glass to remain stable. that temperature differential will get you every time, and shatter. thank goodness that pan was below the rest of the squash, or my hopes and dreams really would have been ruined. well, maybe not ruined, but postponed.


exploded glass


exploded glass part II



needless to say, the squash was not all baked in one swift swoop. and as the squash puree still sits in my fridge, two days later, waiting for its marriage with citrus, cinnamon, and a dash of nutmeg, i know that the squash butter will be made. in due time. in the mean time, in the midst of the gray and blah, a night of heat, fire, and exploding glass was enough to keep me going until i get some real sun.


the puree


if anyone is interested in purchasing some delicious, glass-free pink banana squash butter for the affordable price of $6 a jar, please let me know. delicious on bread and bread-like things (muffins, waffles, pancakes, etc), as a dip, in soup, or by the spoonful, this delicata sunshine treat will treat you quite well.


holy cow. holy cow. the oh so lovely, so beautiful, so graceful, cow. people who know me well know that i LOVE cows. they are the friends (laura) and family (mom) who send thoughtful cards with great cows prancing across the front.

"we've moo-ved"

i have this collection of cow pictures– not the tacky, cheesy cow pictures of an overdone, distasteful kitchen– but artistic cows, mostly that are bright and colorful and full of life. susan, who is in many respects a second mother to me, gave me this AMAZING blue cow painting for my high school graduation. it is very special to me, so special, in fact, i don’t even have it hanging in my room! (my life’s been a bit transient as of late.)

pretty cow!

also, from cows comes great things. GRAND things like ICE CREAM (graeter’s, anyone?)! FROZEN YOGURT (original tang, anyone?)! COTTAGE CHEESE (nancy’s, anyone?)! CHEEEEESE!!!! OH the dairy-filled delights from the oh-so-holy cow.

but, dear friends, i have quite a news breaking tale for you. i, gwen marie meyer, disliker of most meats, especially beef and pork, critical cynic of the modern industrialized meat system, ardent advocate for plant and legume based diets… prepared, ate, and enjoyed beef stew last night for dinner.


you’re shocked, aren’t you. jaw-dropping, knee slapping, shocked. i anxiously await my father and brother’s response to such news– i’m sure i’ll be hearing about it for a long time. this is not to say i have any feeling of urgency about my next meal featuring said beef (except for leftovers, maybe, i imagine they will only get better with age). furthermore, this is not to say i ate very much of it (my bowl had only one chunk of stewed beef). i know better: a bowl of beef reminds me of my days on 2796 powell ave, when i would sneakily slip into the bathroom to spit the wad of meat into the toilet and flush that textural disaster away. i learned that trick after being caught and scolded one too many times for spitting similar wads of meat into my napkin.


but the flavor, the depth, the smell, the character that beef gave the stew. HOLY COW!

the beef was environmentally up to my standards. unfortunately, though, i am embarrassed and ashamed to say, i don’t know the farmer from whom the meat came. last saturday, eastern market lacked the usual sustainable, beef-selling crew. and i had already committed myself to preparing a meal featuring beef after a trial run at canape cart, where i am now gainfully employed.

the stew

i think the smell is what really sealed the deal. that smell, lingering in my head from a day in the canape cart kitchen browning and braising short ribs, reverberated around up there long enough to convince me to make something of my own.

our feast

and so, i give you with no further ado, my beef stew.

gwen’s beef stew
*i made this recipe up– i think it’s pretty flexible and could go a lot of different ways. have fun with it!

1 1/2 pounds sustainably raised (preferably local) stewing beef
oil for your pan
4 small onions (2 medium, 1 large), chopped
3 shallots, on the large side, chopped
5 carrots, chopped
4 leeks, rinsed and chopped, white and a little green parts
4 stalks of celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
1 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup water
quart of tomatoes
red pepper flakes
bay leaf

1. preheat oven to 300.

2. pat dry meat with a paper towel. salt and pepper both sides.

3. in a heavy pot (my christmas present!!), heat enough oil to fully cover the bottom. once nearly smoking, add chunks of stewing beef, careful not to overcrowd the pan. brown meat, 1-2 minutes per side, and then remove and set aside. do this until all the chunks of meat is cooked. you will likely lower the temperature once the oil is hot, so as not to burn the meat.

4. with the leftover browned bits and remaining oil (adding more oil if needed), add the onions, cook for a minute or so, using a spoon to lift the browned bits from bottom of pan. then add carrots, leeks, celery, and garlic, over medium heat. cook down until everything starts to weep and soften, about 15 minutes or so.

5. add the red wine, and let the liquids steam out and reduce down, concentrating the flavor, about 10 minutes. then add vegetable broth and water. cook for another 5-10 minutes, then add tomatoes. (i would recommend adding tomatoes before broth, and seeing how much liquid comes from the tomatoes themselves. you might need more or less broth/water depending on the tomato juices. inconveniently, all of the summer 2010 canned tomatoes were not at my house…hence the simmering of the stew with broth/water first). don’t let the liquid boil, a gentle simmer is the goal. add sprinkles of herbs listed here, starting on the light side, so stew isn’t over spiced, adding gradually till you find your preferred flavor.

6. now, turn off the heat, and make sure the stew is not bubbling or trembling, but hot and calm. add the beef now, making sure to submerge it deeply within the stew and the juices. but a tight-fitting lid on your pot and put it in the oven. try not to let the liquid bubble at all for this part of the cooking process, it will just make the meat tough.

7. let the meat cook for a long time, i let mine go for 2-3 hours, until meat’s tender and you’re hungry.

8. dip yourself a bowl and enjoy!

and here, i give great thanks to the cows of the world. they make this life quite full and exciting, indeed.