Monday, June 29, 2009

Greetings From The Animal Farm.


John and I are taking care of Greendale Farm this week or, "Farm-Sitting'', to be precise. The undertaking has been underway for one full day and we are happy to report that all animals are alive and well. In fact, they would like to meet you. Allow me to introduce you. Here are ''the girls'':


Well, one of them anyway. There are many free range chickens, hens, and a rooster or two, which means there are also plenty of...you guessed it:




...delicious organic eggs. (If you live near Athens or Madison, you should be snatching them up.)



Oh, and the pigs would also like to make your acquaintance.



Or so I thought.


Moving on, there is Zulu, a gorgeous (rare?) Rhodesian Ridgeback who is as cuddly, sweet and friendly as any enormous dog can be.



And his pal Impy, a Jack Russel Terrier.



(From what we've gathered, Zulu and Impy are best friends.)





And oh, look, somebody really did want to meet you...



So we've got a lot to do, and a lot to learn, but so far it has been an utter delight, even if the rooster does indeed wake us up at the crack of dawn. (That's when we need to get up anyway to make the food delivery rounds. Which we get to do on a golf cart loaded with feed. No complaints there!) I am thrilled you got to meet everyone. Don't worry, we'll all be back soon.



p.s. I really enjoyed reading your responses to my latest post. Thank you for reading the article. I hope to be talking more about it soon...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Waste Not, Want Not.


Hello again.

John and I have been contemplating this article as of late, and would like to pass it on to our favorite people: YOU. In fact, we'd be delighted to know how you feel about it, because we thought it was interesting, to say the least.

We hope (if you are like us and get overwhelmed with facts) that you will not feel discouraged by the beginning paragraphs, but press on to the end, because the article takes an inspiring turn.

We also do not present this article to you with a particular desire to discuss frustrating politics, rather the focus for us is to find ways in which we can be better contributers to the planet. We'd also love to hear your ideas, because we suspect you've got some good ones.

Thank you for reading.




Thursday, June 25, 2009

Love To Grow On.


The following is my sister-in-law's response to Wendell Berry's poem that she shared with me. I thought it was wonderful, and therefore am posting it today, because I think you will agree.



Love To Grow On.
By: Beatrice Steiner

About a year ago, I spent a summer working as an educator at an organic farm outside of Boston. The place had grass-fed milk cows and beef cattle, a five-hundred member CSA, a 4-H program, and nearly one thousand acres of rolling green hills and hayfields. It’s pretty amazing.

One day, it was my job to teach kids how things grow, so I instructed my class of about ten three-year-olds to plant sunflowers in a garden by the barn. One girl, after planting her seed just right and watering them, sat down next to her tiny plot of land and started whispering to the soil. When I asked her what she was doing, she looked up at me and said matter-of-factly, “You told us that plants need love to grow, so I’m telling my seed I love it.” I’m really not making that up.

Later that summer, my sisters, then ages 14 and 16, came to visit. I was giving them a tour through the 20 acres of cultivated CSA land when I bent down at a row of plants and pulled a carrot from the ground. Gasps of astonishment followed. “Ohhh my gosh, Bea, that’s sooo cool.” Although they knew and understood that carrots were root vegetables that come from the ground, they had never seen anyone pull a carrot, or, for that matter, a beet, parsnip, or radish, from the dirt. It was like I unlocked a whole new mysterious world for them, where plants actually grew in the soil-- they didn’t just magically appear sparkling clean and bug-free in the grocery store. The girls were totally floored by the experience they had had at the farm. My youngest sister actually came back for a week to work on the farm (completely voluntarily, I would like to add), and was bummed every day at five when we had to stop working. My other sister, the following fall, did an in-depth research project on local food as a consequence of visiting the farm.

My sisters’ excitement wasn’t an exception. Often, I was in charge of a group of about eight kids, and we would go to harvest beets together. In about five minutes flat, I would have two buckets overflowing. Girls and boys alike would be so enthusiastic, with limbs flying every which way, yelling and shrieking, all searching for the biggest beet they could possibly find. Sometimes a little girl or boy would plead with me, “Can I please take this beet home with me? I want to show it to my mom.” They would become attached to what they were pulling out of the ground, dragging their wilty-looking vegetables from one activity to another, holding them like treasured stuffed animals.

What I loved most about teaching kids at the farm is that it made their hamburgers and french fries mean something. They got to witness and experience the fact that their food originated from the earth, not from a cardboard box or a neatly-stacked aisle at the store. They saw that it takes some hard work (and love) to make things grow.

As adults, buying directly from farmers or CSAs puts food back into context as well. When we know our farmers and see the fields where our food comes from, when we witness the full cycle of growth, food means something again.


Photo Credit: Susie Cushner, Country Living Magazine



(To view more beautiful pictures of Appleton Farms, click HERE:)

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Way Things Are.

video

Hello.

A part of me is hoping you haven't noticed my obvious absence and my scattered unlenghthy posts... but then of course a part of me is hoping you have. If you have not noticed, great! If you have noticed, I'm sorry.

To be honest, I have plenty of excuses. This past weekend was a lot of things: busy, fun, tearful, exciting, sad, delicious, (quite tasty, in fact, for a Friday and a Saturday) hot (as in 100 degrees F), and a little sentimental (John took me to have a sushi dinner last night in honor of Father's Day. ) and enjoyable.

You see how a bouncing ball of ever-changing emotions like me might have a little trouble sitting down to write about Burgundy beans. Even though Burgundy beans are quite something.

Not to mention trying to muster up the bravery to confront one of the most horrific To-Do Lists in my personal repertoire (which, for me, is pretty bad). "The List", I'm afraid, is turning into the Lernaean Hydra. I battle and wage war with all my might to knock off one item on the list, and up sprout several more in its place. Did I really think going back to school would be as easy as hopping onto the Hogwarts Express? Apparently so.

It's been so helter-skelter (yes, helter-skelter) that I've not even bought camera batteries to document the good or the bad. And there has been some good... as in, peach-cobbler-with- homemade-vanilla-ice-cream-good.

I've also been watching Babe. Which is always wonderful. John and I have been watching it together bit by bit, maybe a "chapter" or two at night. Whenever something I don't particularly like happens (not in the movie, but in my life) I give him a pitiful look, quote the tiny, dramatic mice and say in my best helium influenced voice, "A tragic day," and he turns and looks at me and says in his best snooty lamb voice that "The way things are is the way things are."

It's stuff like that that gets me through. And knowing that the peach cobbler recipe was a success (something I needed after the chocolate souffle bomb), easy and right here.





Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Photo, A Poem, A Request.


Ladies and Gentle-Readers, I would like to share with you a "poem" or "thought" from Wendell Berry, which I read in Michael Pollan's "In Defense Of Food."

"Eating with the fullest pleasure - pleasure, that is,
that does not depend on ignorance - is perhaps the
profoundest enactment of our connection with the
world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate
our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living
from mystery, from creatures we did not make and
powers we cannot comprehend."

With the emphasis on a connection with the world, I would like to ask you about your experiences and efforts, thoughts and feelings in regards to eating locally. Have you tried it? What did you think? Do you want to make a change? Etc. I would feel more purpose and connection knowing where my readers are in regards to the idea incorporating local food. Please feel free to email me or comment. It would be lovely, and very much appreciated.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Pit-Falls Of Neglecting The Georgia Peach.


To be honest, my cooking has been a bit flat as of late. I use the word “flat” to assure you that bites have been as off to the tongue as a sour note would be to one’s ear.

If cooking were ever a rhythmic, musical endeavor then I have been blowing my horn to the best of my lung capacity, completely out of tune. Not unlike this poor girl:


A recent attempt at chocolate soufflé, for example, was a late evening endeavor meant to be taken as lightly as beaten egg whites and turned out to be as dark and loathsome as a thunder cloud.

(okay, no thunder cloud, but you get the idea)

When this happens, the leftovers are dumped and all that stands witness to a major kitchen flop are piles of wretched looking dishes sulking with goo and giving off the air of a resentful pet.

(Goes without saying that I didn’t bother with a picture, not even of the corroded ramekins I spent the better part of an hour soaking and scrubbing.)

All I can say is, thank God my husband has a sense of humor, and that I’m not (always) too easily offended, because when he took one bite we doubled over laughing. My hope is that it won’t gross you out completely if I told you the eggs were so over-baked John said my soufflé tasted like a rancid fart (one of his, of course!). And then he looked at me like this.

What to do, what to do…

There you have it. Write a lame blog entry (I'm so sorry). Forget about the 6 wasted eggs, chuckle about the foul smell comment and go eat a peach. After all, with the heavenly goodness of local summertime fruits (and veggies, and everything) what am I doing trying to make a soufflé? The peaches I’m eating are better than anything I could make anyway. Silly me. I like how this local food brings us back around to our senses.

P.S. When I get my mojo back, I'm going to try THIS. If you get a chance to make it before I do, please let me know how it is. Or, even better, be a peach? Share your favorite recipe? I'd love you all the more, if that were possible.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Summertime Grillin' With Meat(-thew McConaughey).


When I think of what summer is all about, Matthew McConaughey comes to mind. I hope I’m not the only person that has been bombarded with countless photos (most often unintentionally) of him working on his fitness (Frisbee, jump rope, sit ups, surfing, jogging with Lance, etc.).

Granted that he lived in (lives in?) a trailer, in California, on the beach, and wears minimal clothing, not to mention is blonde and tan, I think it’s fair to suggest that the man embodies summer. And that got me thinking the other day about what he would serve if you were to go to his trailer-yard for a “dinner party.” In my opinion, I think it is obvious that he would be dishing up kebabs. Why would I think that?




A.) they are easy

B.) it is impossible to stress out making them

C.) you can make them with your shirt off

D.) it is delicious dude food, hombre

E.) they are easy

F.) they only require a grill…far out

G.) you make them outside, so you get to work on your tan

H.) you can grill them with one hand

I.) and use the other to hold a Corona with a lime, alright alright alright

J.) the protein in meat is great for muscle tone

K.) they are easy

L.) you can stretch your quads and abdomen whilst grilling

Alright, so maybe he would make hot dogs, but the recipe today is kebabs, and I think it fits. So he might have some college girl in the trailer- kitchen whisking up the marinade, but besides that, I think he could handle it…after all, it is meat on a stick.

If you are a woman and you have thrown together a dinner party, you know how much work it can be. Not anymore. With this recipe, all you have to do is make the marinade and the yogurt sauce and I’m pretty sure your husband, or dude-friend, or boyfriend or any member of the opposite sex can take care of the rest. And when I say “the rest” I am referring to skewering and grilling. That way, you can grab a Corona with a lime and kick back on the lawn.

This recipe originally calls for turkey as the main meat for the kebab, but we used chicken. (Free range, of course.) You could substitute meat with tofu. Also, all the summer veggies are rolling in, which means you should be able to find what you want locally. In addition to the simplicity, the yogurt sauce (which is a must – it counters the spice of the marinade) is as easy as stirring a few ingredients. If you live near a brewery like we do, go for some local beer to complete the picture. Alright? Alright. Party at the moon tower.


Matthew's Chicken Kebabs

(this recipe is adapted from The Kitchen Bible)

Serves 6

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 tbsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

¾ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp crushed hot red pepper (or red pepper flakes)

1 ½ lb. skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 in cubes

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1 in pieces

1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1 in pieces

1 large zucchini, cut into 1 in pieces

1 cup plain yogurt

½ tsp (or more, to taste) ground cumin

2 tbsp chopped mint

Combine the soy sauce, oil, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes in a zippered plastic bag. Add the turkey and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the broiler (or grill, which we heat to 400 degrees or more). Thread the meat, peppers, and zucchini onto skewers. Grill for 5-6 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.

Mix the yogurt, mint, and cumin; serve with the kebabs.

Crack open a cold one. Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

You Are What You Value.

Value is an interesting concept.  It is so personal, isn’t it?  People place value on some strange things: trinkets, clothing, places, stuffed animals, linens, photographs, and yes, even food.  A person may value a photograph for a thousand meaningful reasons, and then share the photograph with someone who may struggle to acknowledge or see its value.  Sometimes it seems the stuff we care about is as trivial as a trinket.  Yet there are some gems that are relative to our hearts, because they are based on an experience.

Take the above photograph, for example.  When I took it, I remember thinking, (like the skeptic that I too often am), “Hmph.  Easier said than done.”  I remember wondering, “what if you don’t have a dream, then what do you become? A nightmare?”  I suppose a part of me thought that the “idealist fairy” was floating around Tampa, Florida sidewalks and dusting the street with little optimistic chalk sayings, trying to piss normal people off.

But I was hurting then, and I was very scared. 

Imagine with me, for a moment, that the snapshot isn’t a photograph, but a short film.  The camera pans upward, away from the sidewalk view and into my view.  Standing there, alit by the evening sun, and waiting patiently for me to take the photo, is my father.  He is smiling at me because he thinks I am silly, lagging behind and taking pictures of little chalk writings.  He beckons me to hurry up to him so that we can walk together to the nearby Sushi restaurant.  He is quiet, and tired, but he has saved all his energy to do something special for me on this day: my twenty-third birthday.  He wanted to take me to Tampa so he could treat me to a dinner of my favorite food.  We walk to the hip sushi restaurant and I order a caterpillar roll and a fancy daiquiri with an edible orchid.  


And I, being sentimental, slide over to his side of the booth and coerce him into letting me take the classic “one arm out headshot,” because a part of me knows that this will be my last birthday with my father.   


Yes, it is a sad story.  It is difficult for me to think about this day and even harder to write about it.  The reason I am is because I feel I am finally at a point in my life where I can truly appreciate my 23rd birthday for all that it was.  These three photos tell me something about who I am, and help facilitate me toward the ultimate goal we all want so much in life, the goal to ‘become our dream’. 

The first photo indicates that I was a little lost, but not completely.  I wouldn’t have snapped the picture if I didn’t want to remember the message of possibility.  At the time I was so skeptical, but now it makes me look at the second picture with more clarity.  I was photographing food before I ever started writing about it, or buying it a certain way, or even growing it myself, but I was also trying so hard to save a memory of a time that I could not understand very well.  Why would I do that?  Probably because I wanted to write about it later.

And the last picture, (looking beyond the haircut, of course) is of Dad, and when I think of him, I wince a little because I know he’d be mad as hell that I haven’t finished school yet.  He would have said, “Annie, this really chaps my ass.”  And he never really swore.

 In order for me to become my dream, I must return to school.  Why all this is clear now and not before is something I haven’t yet figured out.  But I think a part of me wants TwinYolks to be much, much better for you, and for that to happen, I need to work hard to become a much, much better writer. 

Don’t worry, TwinYolks is one of my great joys and, at times, my sanity.  I love sharing foods and ideas with you. I love learning from you. You all make me very happy.  I refuse to break up with you under any circumstances, okay?  

Now I think I’ll go make the closest thing to a Japanese Daquiri I can, and toast to you, life, Dad, education, and becoming my dream.  


 

P.S. No more sad posts coming up, promise. :)


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Are You A Chef?




The other night I was talking to someone about TwinYolks, and they asked what it was about.  I replied with the basics:  "local food, cooking, recipes, my life, etc."  The next question, was, "Are you a chef?"  To which, of course, I laughed and replied, "No, not at all."  

And from that point on it was a little awkward, and it seemed apparent that I'd lost some "credibility", if I ever had any in the first place.  


Yet the more I think about how not being a chef caused a slight contretemps in conversation, the more I feel compelled to explain why I am insistent on repeating the great moral of Ratatouille and repeat with fervency that, with this food, "anyone can cook."  

You can cook.  I know you can.  Could it be possible that you don't have the best, freshest, highest quality ingredients?  Do you squirt your lemon out of a bottle or do you squeeze it from an actual lemon?  Little things like that make a big difference.  (Not to mention: How can lemon juice possibly stay fresh for years?)   

My "Person of the Week" (or, in my opinion, year), Michael Pollan, with his gift of clarity explains it this way:

"When you eat from the farmers' market, you automatically eat food that is in season, which is usually when it is most nutritious.  Eating in season also tends to diversify your diet - because you can't buy strawberries or broccoli or potatoes twelve months of the year, you'll find yourselfexperimenting with other foods when they come to market... Whether it is rutabaga or an unfamiliar winter squash, the CSA box's contents invariably send you to your cookbook to figure out what in the world to do with them.  Cooking is one of the most important health consequences of buying food from local farmers; for one thing, when you cook at home you seldom find yourself reaching for the ethoxylated diglycerides or high-fructose corn syrup. "

Go out to the nearest Farmers Market and buy a unfamiliar vegetable and figure out what to do with it.  The end result might surprise you, and re-infuse you with kitchen confidence.  What are you waiting for?  Anyone can cook.


(Well, maybe not anyone, but that is a huge cucumber.)

Above tomato/bread recipe is so delicious, and so easy it's not even a recipe.  Get a farm fresh tomato, slice over sourdough, drizzle with olive oil (and/or balsamic vinaigrette), salt and a few sprigs of basil. If you prefer, add a bit of your favorite cheese (we like goat).  Roast lightly in the oven and devour.

And have a wonderful weekend...if you find anything interesting at your local farmer's market I'd love to hear about it!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Oh Happy (Thurs) Day.


Last week, amidst the moving chaos, I had to figure out how to transport our above Thursday Athens Locally Grown pick-up. Most of our veggies were still fresh, though we’d been ignoring them for the easy bread and hummus stomach-filler. Yet, there was so little to throw away.

Our move was too close by to invest in a big cooler and too far to not use one since the heat has arrived, so we made a game plan: John loaded the truck with some of our boxes (thanks, Morecrafts) and blasted the air conditioning while I packed the veggies (I had fennel! Strawberries! Cucumbers!) in cardboard boxes laden across little ice packs. When he signaled ‘ready’ we raced to the truck with our food (milk, meat, eggs, too) and loaded it in the front seat, scurried over to our new abode, and fast-as-lightning unloaded it into the new refigerator. Phew.

As I passed my husband running to the truck with my arms full of a box of iced greens, he looked at me and said, “You look like you have an iced heart you are taking for emergency transplant.”

Geez. That was the first time I thought very hard about whether or not I was going a little overboard in the food department. It was June, and it was time for me to eat at a proper restaurant.

Everyone has their indulgences, mine being a big, fat, juicy chicken chimichanga from Auga Linda, accompanied by what we like to call a “fro marg” (that’s John’s cheesy slang for frozen margarita) and, when you are exhausted beyond the point of no return, you should have one. Moving is hard, and weird, and you can catch yourself doing things that people who aren’t in the midst of moving might call “bizarre.” I might have rushed my food around like an EMT with a precious, life-saving organ, but really, I was the one who needed a little (life?) support, and in the end, eating cheap, delicious Mexican food was what might’ve saved me.

Now I’m moved in, my kitchen is ready, and just in time. I’m feeling re-energized and today is my pick up day. Readers, I’m getting this:

Items ordered on May 31, 2009

1 x Arugula = $3.00
1 x Asparagus--Fresh = $4.50
1 x Basil - Spicy Globe = $4.00
1 x Beans - Green = $4.00
1 x Beef -- Ground = $5.00
1 x Bread -- Sour Dough Hand = $5.00
1 x Cilantro = $2.50
1 x Collard Greens = $2.00
1 x Cucumber -- Suyo Long = $2.25
1 x Dill = $2.00
1 x Hot Peppers - Jalapenos = $3.50
1 x Peas - Snow Pea = $3.50
1 x Peppers - Sweet Banana = $3.50
1 x Potatoes -- Yukon Gold and Kennebec = $3.00
1 x Salad Mix = $4.00
1 x Spinach -- Melody and Space Organic Hybrid = $4.00
1 x Squash -- Baby Zucchini (green) = $3.00
1 x Tomatoes -- CNG mix = $4.00

Total: $62.75


It’s true, they’ve arrived. My tomatoes, and none too soon.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Practically Perfect (In Every Soufflé).


I feel a little sheepish for being gone so long.  I've thought about you through the entire process, eagerly waiting to unpack, arrange and organize my kitchen, not to mention  let loose and whip up something that tastes as pretty and perfect as this new kitchen feels.  


(that's spicy cabbage (it is yummy) - you get something fancier, though for recipe, click here)

It is possible that I imagined John following me around with the camera, documenting every single exciting difference (granite counter tops, for example) but that would have been a frivolous thing to do, amidst all the boxes, errands, organizing, and rearranging.  Yet I snuck and did it (a little) anyway.  From many angles.  And with many different camera settings.  While John wasn't looking.  


Eager as I was to get back here, I relearned a valuable lesson (or two, or twenty): you can't rush something special.  Part of me has always known that quality takes longer.  That's sort of an underlying theme with TwinYolks, that extra work is worth the effort.  Sigh. I am often not so patient, though you have been.  You have waited.  You must be hungry.  Here, have a real treat. Yes, I made it especially for you.



This recipe is direct from The Kitchen Bible.  There are hundreds of recipes in it, most of which, I'm sure, will launch you nonstop to your happy place, but this one is special.  Why?  Lots of reasons, (new house, new recipe...) but for me, mostly because it was hard work. 

 (Ever beaten egg whites before?  I hadn't.  My arm was so tired that I summoned John, and from there we were yelling,
 "take over!" 
"no, you take over!" 
 "oooooowwwwwiiiiiieeeeee,"  
  You don't beat egg whites, you obliterate them, and it's exhausting.)  

(Yes, I have a hand mixer.  Where at the moment?  I don't know.)

Secondly because though they looked like little puffs of heaven, I doubted - thanks to my numb arm -  the effort would be rewarding. I was dead wrong.   It's kind of awesome, I think, when something as passive as food proves you wrong.



These guys are creamy, fluffy, puffy, crispy, salty, and sweet.  Sort of like a quiche, if it were transformed into a wisp of a cloud.  Also, if you make sure not to over bake even a hair, it is creamier on the inside than yo momma's mashed potatoes and gravy.  Need I say more?  Okay.  The 'Bible' says they "taste every bit as good as they look."  So that's final.

If your arm falls off while beating egg whites, it will still be worth it.  Also you must make sure you have an hour of unattended Soufflé-time.  (I prioritized you guys.)  Last, but not least, John and I believe that the nutmeg could be replaced with a *tiny crushed garlic clove, but haven't got the arm strength left to prove it, so if you are feeling confident, give it a try and let me know what you think.  

(white stuff= obliterated egg whites)



Hope you like it.  



Spinach Soufflés
(makes 4 servings)

8 oz. spinach, rinsed but not dried
4 tbsp. butter, plus extra for the ramekins
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
*pinch of nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs, separated

Place the spinach with any clinging water in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Cover and cook for 3 minutes, or until tender.  Drain and let cool.  A handful at a time, squeeze out the excess liquid.  

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 C).  Butter four ramekins and place on a baking sheet.  

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat.  Whisk in the flour and let bubble for 1 min.  Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Return the heat to low and simmer for about 3 minutes.  Stir 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the *nutmeg into the saucepan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Transfer the sauce to a large bowl.

Roughly chop the spinach and stir into the cheese mixture.  Cover with plastic wrap pressed on the surface and let cool to room temperature.  Stir in the yolks.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Stir about one quarter of the whites into the spinach mixture, then fold in the remainder.  

Divide the mixture among the ramekins.  Using a knife, make a shallow circle around the ramekins about 1/4 in (6mm) from the edge.  Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese.  Bake about 20 minutes, until puffed and golden.  Serve at once.  

P.S.  The Kitchen Bible teaches you how to beat egg whites, and so much more.  It is a must-have.  You can snag it off my sidebar if you like.  Also, if you have any questions making this dish, please comment and ask!  

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