I’ve been baking for so long now with a woodstove oven that it’s second nature. But baking bread using my horno (my clay, wood-fired bread oven, see picture below) is always an adventure. Even though I’ve had it for at least 4 years now, I’m still far from mastering the fine points of the perfect fire, the perfect heat, and knowing when to do what. But, the challenge is part of what makes it fun!
Yesterday, I baked in the horno–and then, made a small feast!
I baked 2 dozen bagels and 2 loaves of bread (rosemary and plain wheat). Also grilled red peppers, salmon and steak with the coals I swept out of the oven and into the kettle grill. The salmon was the best I’d had in ages– very fresh and flavorful, and thick enough that it was easy to not overcook it. I took it off the grill when it was only about half way cooked, and then let it sit in the kitchen with a big bowl turned over it. The good little kittens didn’t dare to disturb the arrangement, while Kiva and Rhiannon went to town to take care of a lot of mail orders. (“the kittens” are all fully grown, but I still enjoy calling them all kittens…)
I want my blog to be a fairly accurate reflection of the person I really am.
An important part of who I am a devoted kitchen tender, who much prefers to go to bed at night without any dishes left in the sink. Harmony and beauty are things I value very much, right up there with joy and satisfaction. Focus is another thing that’s important, but very hard for me to accomplish.
My original vision was to keep this blog focused on the food, and not so much on me, or my life, or the way I see and experience the world. But I’m seeing that I want it to feel more playful, more true to the imperfect person that I am– and less “I’m trying to be a serious food writer that shows nothing but pretty pictures of perfect food”.
The cookbook I’m writing will be focused on just food. (at least I think so!) But this blog, starting now, (actually I think it started with my last post, and I just didn’t know it yet) will include all kinds of other stuff, along with the food.
It’s kind of scary, feeling like I’m opening up other aspects of myself to potential criticism. It’s like inviting my mother for supper in the middle of monsoon season, when I know there will be flies in the kitchen and I will be running around like crazy with buckets of water and she will be shaking her head, wondering what she did to deserve such a strange creature for a daughter, and what she might have done wrong. Read more
An Inspired Food Moment- July 19, 2016
It’s late. I’m sorting fresh raspberries, and put a few of the mushy but still good ones on my favorite tea saucer. Some cream yogurt, maple syrup… and then reach for the peppercorns, and then the green ones, too. Grind quite a few of them into the yogurt. Mash the raspberries into the pepper, then squeeze the juice of a cut lemon end, sitting on the counter. I could swear that it winked at me… then a pinch of red chile, not that it needed it.
It’s so good I contemplate saving the last lick for the morning…
(I get green peppercorns from mountain rose botanicals- they are the bae!)
Coming soon– meet a wild “green pepper” plant!
To be honest, it took me quite a while to fall in love with lamb’s quarters.
But once I learned how to make “quelites”, a traditional Mexican dish, I became very attached. Maybe I even need them, like I “need” cheese in my life. Certainly, my enchanted pantry would be a sadder, less magical place without them.
This month, I’m attempting to gather up enough to see us through the winter. Many an evening I’ve been spotted by the local wildlife running barefoot upriver to the lamb’s quarters patch, piling up my greens for the night in an old sarong, then wrapping it up and slinging it over my shoulder for the mile walk back to the kitchen.
I have three ways I like to preserve lamb’s quarters or “goose-foot,” Chenopodium album, a plant that is known in the US Southwest more often as “pig-weed” or “quelites”. The Spanish word “quelites” refers to the traditional Mexican dish or the lamb’s quarters plant itself. It can also refer to amaranth greens, and they are often prepared the same way. Most often, they are boiled and then sautéed with minced onions and red chile, sometimes adding mashed beans near the end of the cooking time.
The first easy preservation trick is pesto. Lamb’s quarters pesto might sound odd, but its flavor is wonderful! I don’t love all herbal pestos, and I was skeptical, since I’m not a huge fan of raw lamb’s quarters…but this is one that makes me very happy.
The second is to boil it and freeze it, which also works very well. Of course this takes up precious freezer space, however, so my third and favorite way to preserve lamb’s quarters is to dry them.
My new favorite spice blend!
Ras el Hanout (which means “top of the shop” in Arabic) is a Moroccan spice mixture used in their cuisine to flavor everything from grilled meats, vegetable tagines, to a hashish candy called majoun. Traditionally the number of spices used is at least sixteen and up to more than a hundred.
In her amazing book, The Food of Morocco, Paula Wolfert, one of my great culinary heroes, (more about her another time!) has pared down the number of spices to make a delicious facsimile of the real deal. I’ve become rather obsessed with it, putting it in everything from bowls of yogurt and peaches to lamb’s quarters stir fries with goat milk. I’ve been mixing it with honey and butter on toast, and even sprinkling it into my Earl Grey tea with cream! You will be seeing it as an addition, or a suggested “optional” addition in some upcoming recipes. Any of these spices are available online from Mountain Rose, if you don’t have them handy.
After assembling the spices, doing the actual work only takes about 15 minutes, and less if you’re using a electric coffee/spice grinder. Here’s her method and one of her recipes for “Faux Ras el Hanout”, along with my notes as to a few changes I made, and a few more I will make next time I make it, along with the reasons why. Read more
The thing is, I really like my food ruts.
Because a lot of the things I most love to eat, I cook all the time. There’s hardly two weeks that go by in which I haven’t made nearly half of my favorite things having to do with potatoes, tortillas, acorns, eggs, mushrooms, and wild greens. But I don’t want to make these wonderful things, slowly, become less fun to eat.
So, number one in my Getting out of a Food Rut series is to:
Cook for just ourselves, once in a while.
Maybe you live alone, and this doesn’t seem very helpful. But even if you do, are you really cooking for yourself? What I mean by that, is, are you really paying attention to your very own, particular, strangest food preferences and paying some homage to them, as you’re cooking for yourself? Read more