woah. it is already the fourteenth of december. DECEMBER. with a mere seventeen days left of this month, of 2010, i must say that time flies. it moves so quickly, swiftly, crazily, steadily. i remember, as a child, when my mom would say “i can’t believe it’s already [fill in the blank]!”, i would scrunch my nose and think to myself “she’s crazy.” but now, already two and a half years out of undergrad, two and a half glorious years in detroit, two and a half years working and learning and stretching and growing with the great folks of earthworks urban farm, i am shocked at how fast the time has gone.

 

quinoa buli

 

i have a lot of excuses up my sleeve for not posting. it’s been a time of transition for me– finding a new job, finding yet another new house (yes, that’s two house moves in two months… impressive, right?), balancing two jobs for a month, saying goodbye to earthworks and the soup kitchen (not forever, but for work), trying to fit in friends and family, trying to make time for eastern market and maybe even a walk in the snow.

 

mama's pumpkin cookies

 

currently, i find myself again behind. but behind in terms of the holiday season. i think that the calendar monster came out of the depths of the detroit river and ate a week of solid prep time between thanksgiving and now. it must have happened while i was sleeping.

 

rolling out thanksgiving blueberry pie

 

this week, i look forward to bright snow-filled days, hours in the kitchen, and the lawrence family christmas bru-ha-ha by the weekend. it should be lovely.

 

bulgur wheat stuffed squash with goat cheese and parmesan

please note, i’ve maintained a decent busy-ness in the kitchen! the translation from camera to computer to delicatasunshine has just been on slow-motion-mode.

with love and peace, i give you this update. and, with great hope and expectation, i look forward to sharing with you soon. and, thank you, pa, for enticing my update.

 

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friends, i have an oven again!

and, not just any oven. the baking and roasting and broiling and toasting all comes through a beautiful detroit jewel.

isn’t she just beautiful? i must admit, i didn’t know about detroit jewel ovens until moving into my new place. and i feel working in a detroit kitchen with a detroit jewel is appropriate, lovely, and very exciting. it’s an old gas oven, with history, grace, and the traces of many magical meals. i’ve never worked with an oven (not just stove top) that i get to light myself. exciting! exhilarating! new! fantastic!

of course, i tried it out three different ways on my first day using this antique piece of kitchen machinery. i roasted pink banana squash, i toasted the squash seeds, and i baked some delicious banana muffins.

see the squash ready for roasting? oh-so-grand.

everything came out equally grand: the squash: now in pureed form and ready for further processing. the seeds: toasted in oil and salt and pepper, a happy lightness and chewiness making them texturally half-way between popcorn and pumpkin seeds. the banana muffins: golden and polka-dotted with dried cranberries and chocolate chunks.

i think the jewel and i are going to get along just fine.

though i am back in detroit, the memory of this delicious take on banana bread makes me anxious for an opportunity to try it out again on this side of lake michigan.

friends, i give you peanut butter chocolate chip banana bliss!

wow, what a mouthful. and wow what a mouthful of flavor! this bread turned out so moist, flavorful, not too sweet or too rich, but a very happy warm marriage of two of my favorite foods: peanut butter and chocolate chips. added bonus, it’s a baked good and a bread! hooray for bread addicts like myself!!

i merged a couple of different recipes together to make these, and unfortunately, i don’t exactly remember how i did it… but i will try to pull together a thread of an idea of what i used. if nothing else, be inspired by these recipes: peanut butter banana bread, marble banana bread (i don’t marble it, though), and banana bread with chocolate chips and candied ginger.

peanut butter chocolate chip banana bliss bread

2 cups flour (i used something like 1/2 cup king arthur white, 1/2 cup oats, 1/2 cup ground almonds, 1/4 cup ground sunflowers, 1/4 cup ground flax seeds)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1 egg
1/3 c yogurt
1/3 c peanut butter
1 1/2 cups bananas (2-3 very ripe bananas!)
1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. preheat oven to 350. grease 3 mini bread pans, 1 regular bread pan, or a muffin pan with oil or butter.

2. combine dry ingredients, flour through nutmeg, in a medium-sized bowl. whisk to combine.

3. beat together brown sugar, butter. egg, yogurt, and peanut butter until smooth. add bananas, beat to combine.

4. add dry ingredients and chocolate chips to banana mixture, stirring until just combined (do not over mix). divide batter evenly in pans and bake for 35 minutes, or until bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. let sit in pans for 10 minutes on wire racks, then remove, and allow to cool. (i always sample when i remove bread from tins– it’s just too tempting!) enjoy!

 

 

the babycakes!

 

oh, me! oh, my! the joys of a baking oven. i must say i’m happily taking full advantage of the facilities de la casa meyer here in wausau, wi.

sunday, we made squash pizza– a beautiful pie with butternut puree as the sauce, graciously topped with caramelized shallots, shiitake mushrooms, garlic, mozzarella, asiago, and dollops of ricotta cheese (i stole the idea of using ricotta from the ever amazing supino pizzeria in eastern market). it was well-loved by all.

but, after all was said and done, the majority of the ricotta container was unused, sitting, waiting, wanting to inspire some other fantastical dish. my mom explained to me that she doesn’t really use ricotta all that much, which motivated my using it even further–no way did i want that container of smooth, creamy potential to go to waste!

and so i found a recipe for “nonna’s lemon ricotta biscuits” a la giada de laurentis. and these babies are just magical. light, fluffy, full of flavor, and the most gorgeous texture–smooth and not heavy, with a brightness only lemon can give. instead of making 12 normal-sized muffins, i made 24 babies, which, i think, adds so much to the perfection of these muffins. the smaller muffin size creates not only cute, pop-in-your-mouth sweet snacks, but it also allows each bite to enjoy the slightly toasted, slightly crispier outside, where the muffin met the tin in the oven. i also made a baby loaf, which went happily into the freezer for future indulgence. hooray for ricotta!

lemon ricotta babycakes
from giada de laurentis’s nonna’s lemon ricotta biscuits

*i used king arthur white flour, and i think it was the key ingredient to produce such light, texturally pleasing muffins!

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
zest from 2 lemons
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
slivered/sliced almonds, for topping muffins

1. pre-heat oven to 350. grease a 24 baby muffin tin and a baby loaf tin.

2. whisk together dry ingredients, flour through salt.

3. in an electric mixer, combine sugar, butter, and zest, beating until light and fluffy. then beat in ricotta. beat in egg, lemon juice, and almond extract.

4. add dry ingredients and stir until just blended.

5. scoop batter into muffin tins/loaf tins and top with slivered almonds and a little sugar. bake for 15-20 minutes (longer for loaf), until batter is cooked through and the tops are just beginning to golden. enjoy!

hahaha. i couldn’t help myself but to name this post tuna delight. it makes me think of the horrific, grotesque, lumpy, soggy messes of tuna casserole served in high school cafeterias. you know what i mean, those lunches where the grouchy, scowly cafeteria worker, ever-so stereotypically donning a hair-net and a curiously impeccable apron, scooping and plopping the tired tuna on the trays.

tuna delight

well, good friends, this tuna dish is something special. in fact, my dad claimed it was the best pasta dishes he’s ever had (the ever optimist and complimentarian when it comes to food his family’s prepared). but, i cannot deny the glory of this dish. a little bit of heat from the red pepper flakes, saltiness from the olives and capers, brightness from the lemon and arugula– oh, sweet balance! how delightful you make a dish, an eating experience!

this dish welcomed my mom, feet repaired and all, back home. thank goodness for that. the sunset that evening reflected the warm, happy feelings of successful surgeries.

surgical success

tuna delight
inspired by tuna puttanesca

1 box quinoa pasta
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 container italian oil packed tuna (drained)
handful kalamata olives, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons capers
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1/4 white wine
1 14.5 oz can tomatoes, diced
handful fresh arugula, chopped
zest of 2 lemons
fresh black pepper

1. bring a large pot of salted water to boil, and cook the pasta as directed.

2. pour oil in a skillet over medium heat. add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute til garlic is beginning to soften and flakes are fragrant, 2-4 minutes.

3.  add tuna, chopping with a wooden spoon to break up lumps, and continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes.

4. add olives and capers, cook for another 2-4 minutes. then add vermouth and white wine. stir in and allow to cook down for another 3-4 minutes.

5. add tomatoes, allow for juices to cook down, another 2 minutes or so. then add arugula, lemon zest, and black pepper. continue to simmer for a few more minutes, being careful not to  over cook the greens (pull off heat when the arugula is still bright and fresh-looking).

6. combine drained pasta with sauce, plate and eat! enjoy!

this past week has been a blur. returning to detroit from colombia, honey extraction, a full week of work with beautiful weather, a challenging and inspiring lecture at schoolcraft from tim wise, it’s been a rich week indeed. but thursday, gorgeous thursday, i had the pleasure of making a meal for my dear friend carolyn, the mama of a beautiful new baby boy.

a good thing, too. as october seems to be the month of travel, i am now in wausau, wi, playing “nurse” for my mom post toe-joint surgery (i am sure there is a technical name for that, but the non-nurse-y person i am figures toe-joint surgery says enough). making food for carolyn gave me the perfect opportunity to clean out my fridge in an oh-so-lovely way! and, packed with nutritious, vibrant kale; protein-rich eggs and cheese; and gorgeous potatoes; this meal seemed perfect for the family with a new mouth to feed.

i followed the ratio direction of  the moosewood collective. easy, fast, and so tasty, even when my un-calibrated oven cooks it in half the time it’s supposed to take… good thing she gave it a positive report– i was worried it would be too dry. i made two extra baby frittatas for me and my neighbor to enjoy, and i must say i found it light, colorful, and quite tasty.

frittata with potatoes and greens
adapted from moosewood restaurant new classics

2 cups potatoes, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon paprika
2 cups red onion, sliced
2 cups kale, chopped
1 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
6 eggs
3 tablespoons cream cheese
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded mozzarella

1. preheat the oven to 400. in a bowl, combine potatoes, paprika, two tablespoons oil, and half the garlic. spread on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 20 minutes. turn down temperature of oven to 350 once potatoes are done.

2. in the same bowl, toss onions with remaining oil and garlic as well as the cayenne and mix. transfer onions to a skillet over medium heat and cook the onions until they sweat and soften, about 5-8 minutes. add the kale and parsley and saute until the greens are hot and still bright, don’t overcook the greens, about 2 minutes.

3. in a blender, combine eggs, cream cheese, flour, milk, and salt and pulse until custard is smooth.

4. in an oiled pan (i used a 10″ circular pan), layer roasted potatoes evenly on bottom. evenly spread the onion/green mixture over potatoes. sprinkle with shredded mozzarella, and pour custard over all.

5. the recipe said to bake for 45 minutes, until custard is set and the top is golden brown, but mine was done in a quick 30 minutes–i am fairly confident this is due to the inaccuracy of the oven thermometer… regardless, the finished product is quite delectable! enjoy!

i look forward to a week of posts– how inspiring it is to serve as a cooking “nurse” in a house with a lovely working oven, beautiful produce, and bright, eager faces… and consistent internet! ah, the luxuries of visits with los padres.

the honey harvest is in. the bees are ferociously finishing up their loose ends by hustling the last of the golden rod. the golden girls of the summer, those industrious, hardworking bees of the hot sunny months are taking their final flights, dying outside of the hive. they die to leave room for the winter bees, born just in time to cluster around the queen and keep her strong through the cold months of winter in michigan.

while the earthworks honey is safe in the freezer until mid-november for extraction, the sweet on detroit community came to the capuchin soup kitchen‘s honey house (our kitchen) for an extraction fiesta. what a sweet time it was!

the process is really quite simple. first, you harvest. a box of honey, called a super, can weigh as much as 60 pounds. each super holds 9 frames which actually hold the honeycomb, and hence, the honey! we processed together about 8-10 supers throughout our monday night extraction extravaganza. some folks had a whole lot, some came with the sweet stuff from their community gardens, and some had only a few frames. it was smooth sailing, full of tasting and discussing the varietal differences between each hive’s honey. it is so amazing to physically experience the distinct individuality of a hive’s honey, even when all of these hives live in the same city. some carried herby, earthy undertones; some minty; some floral and bright. the variety of golds, yellows, sunshines, ambers present demonstrated nature’s most beautiful artwork.

this is a picture of the capped honey on the frame, straight from the hive. see how the honey is gorgeously capped, protected behind the new white beeswax? this means that the bees finished their work processing the nectar to honey– they actually use their wings to evaporate a large majority of the water out of the nectar (nectar contains about 80% water while honey only 18%!).

in the next step, the wax protection is removed with (in this case) a cold knife. a serrated knife on both sides, the decapper glides the knife as close to the wax surface as possible to prevent the loss of honey. the places where the cold knife cannot easily reach and decap are met with a comb-like looking tool that gently scrapes caps off. (no photograph a la gwen available at this time!!!)

here is a frame, decapped and ready for the extractor. OH! look how it drips! how it glistens! that viscous, thick, liquid gold!

next, the frames of honey go into the extractor. we are lucky enough to have this electrically-run extraction machine, though hand-cranking the hone is also an option. it’s a centrifuge that fits 9 frames (conveniently, a full super). once loaded, the extractor gradually increases the speed of the spin of the centrifuge. the comb, decapped, flings the honey onto the walls of the extractor. as gravity pulls this lazy fluid down, the honey lethargically moves toward an exit valve at the bottom of the machine and tumbles into a bucket below.  it is key to balance the frames within this machine to maximize speeds and time of spinning-out without the wobbles (not unlike the art of balancing wet clothes when loading the dryer).

the honey is then filtered through a double sieve, which collects bits of wax flung off in the extractor, dead bees, legs, wings, etc. the protein collector!

then, the filtered honey is transferred into the bottling container, handy with a valve for easy jarring. again, how can i stop from exclaiming !!!! admiring !!!! exalting !!!! wildflower detroit honey !!!! ?

tuesday’s extracting adventure, sticky and sweet for sure. a happy appetizer to the main event: the whopping 35 supers awaiting extraction november 13th. i can hardly wait!

***after writing this, i suddenly realized that my friend pa just documented this very experience, his and ma‘s extraction of their own honey! a cross-“blog”ination. ha. i’m not sure that even makes sense… i am just so easily excitable/sharable when it comes to honey!! you should check out their experience— it’s documented with love and attention.

today, i happily send greetings and glad tidings to you from detroit. but the sunshine, the ceviche, and the coastal life i share is straight from the colombian coast– cartagena’s finest sunsets, seafood, and charming architectural delights.

i traveled south for a quick, four-day trip to the caribbean coast for a wedding. what better way to experience a culture than through such a sacred tradition?! the city, one of colombia’s oldest, has two parts– “new” and “old”. while our hotel was in new and directly on the beach (the picture above is from my hotel window), the highlight of the cultural experience for me was in the ciudad vieja. a 300 year old wall surrounds the ciudad vieja, and the buildings are bright with HUGE doors. there is a secret, smaller door for the tiny humans to pass through. it’s pretty fantastic.

the food of cartagena, overall, was heavy on the meat-eating and frying. i relaxed my rules and decided that experiencing the cultural realities of cartagena–not demanding to know where the meat actually came from and the raising practices of said meat. i still always opted for the fish because i LOVE fish. and the seafood here was stellar.

pulpo carpaccio de la vitrolla

i ate my favorite “fancy” meal at a restaurant in la ciudad vieja called la vitrolla. a cuban joint, it had an atmosphere and charm that was ideal for a little relaxation and culinary comfort, a welcomed break from the humid streets of cartagena. we ordered three appetizers: a pulpo (octopus) carpaccio, a ceviche mixto, and camarones de ajo (shrimp with garlic).

ceviche mixto de la vitrolla

camarones de ajo de la vitrolla

i can’t even begin to explain the depth, the character, the delight of these dishes. i was lamenting the fact that i don’t live on a caribbean coastline, until i remembered that i do live in michigan, a state completely surrounded by water. perhaps i won’t be able to attempt the same savory sumptuousness as these, but i feel the fish inspiration, for sure.

felicidades to the newly weds! hasta luego, colombia! i hope to be back for a visit soon!

cartagena from the water

dancing dinosaurs

autumn’s first week has greeted me with crisp excitement in the gardens at earthworks. (and a happy belated equinox to you). while the daylight hours are shrinking back and the sleepy darkness of this time of the year makes waking hard, and while the fall grey days offer a sort of dull comfort, those gardens still fill me with so much LIFE.

our fall greens stand stately, boldly, somehow verdantly majestic. unfortunately, the aphids have found them, sucking and snacking away on these lovely brassicas (kale, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage). on monday, i treated those little sucking bugs to a wet ride: sprayed–rather blasted–those buggers off the greens! the job was tedious, but also so delightful to spend four hours slowly pacing through these greens, to really commune with them.

while doing so, i had the pleasure to see the dinosaurs dance. am i crazy? well, of course. but i saw the march of the dinosaurs in the lacinato, toscano or dino kale (it’s so popular it has a variety of names!). this row of kale looked like a heard of miniature brachiosaurus on the move, their lengthy gorgeous necks gracefully bobbing as the water dripped down.

i never knew spraying aphids could be so much fun!

i have no delicious recipe for your today, but if i did, it would most certainly feature the oh-so-lovely lacinato kale. soon. but picturing those plants as a mass of dinosaurs makes any grey day so much more entertaining.

today, dear friends, i give you indian peach and tomato chutney.

and, i do so with love, eager enthusiasm, and great enjoyment.

glowing jars of peach and tomato chutney

this year, i’ve done my fair share of experimenting with all sorts of types of condiments– mostly pickles (rhubarb, beets, cucumbers, hot peppers), but also pasta sauce, pestos, and the like. making chutney, though, the ever illusive chutney, has been on my mind and in my dreams for a number of weeks, if not months. and, folks, this is a darned tasty chutney– the tanginess of the ripe tomatoes and apple cider vinegar, the spice and heat of the garlic and chili powder, the sweet warmth of the peaches… oh this stuff is great.

mix it all together

i’ve been working with the great folks at corktown community brunch on and off for a number of months now. when i read this month’s menu–an indian take on huevos rancheros–i couldn’t help but think about trying a peach chutney as a side. so, this month’s brunch will feature delicata sunshine chutney and indian pickles from the lovely suddenly sauer. it’s definitely an honor to share the table with such a happy pickler!

the peaches and tomatoes

the liquid and spice, how nice!

simmering and melding

i welcome everyone in the greater detroit area to check out the brunch this sunday, september 19th! we’ll be at brother nature farm at 2913 rosa parks, in detroit from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm. come check us out!

and now for the recipe!

indian peach and tomato chutney
(for two quarts)

30 cloves garlic, minced
2 inches peeled ginger, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon pickling spice
24 peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
3 litres peaches, chopped (bought them from a canadian vendor at e. market and can’t find conversion, about 6 pounds, i think!)
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped

1. combine garlic, ginger, salt, chili powder, pickling spice, nutmeg, brown sugar, and vinegar in a medium pot over medium heat. stir until combined, then stir frequently until thoroughly warm. add peaches and tomatoes, stir to coat.
2. bring to a gentle simmer. cover and continue to simmer for 30 minutes, until peaches and tomatoes are soft and the chutney is thick. be sure to stir occasionally to prevent sticking on the bottom of pan.
3. remove from heat, allow to cool. store in the fridge and enjoy!