intuitive cooking, sensible eating.


Pasta Sauce

Quickly making pasta out of whatever is there can always produce an interesting process from its start to finish.  Naturally, one of the two most important parts of sauce – the base (the other, being time) was where I started with this dish.

Open the fridge, what is here that could add depth of flavor?  Bacon.

Step #1 fry up like four slices of bacon.

Next, see what vegetables you have.  Hopefully some onions, garlic, at least.  We did not even have carrots, which I lamented for about 10 seconds, and then set forth chopping up the mushrooms, onions, and celery.

Step #2 pull out bacon once it’s crispy, pour off some of the grease into your grease can, then put it back on and begin to saute the veggies over pretty high heat.

Hopefully you’ll have some sort of random cooking wine left laying around.  That would be nice at a moment like this, right?  What can add depth of flavor to this sauce without having to work too hard – so far, bacon and wine seemed obvious.  And voila’, a box of leftover Franzia from an event.

Step #3 deglaze the pan with some white or red wine – whatever you have.  You’ll loosen up all the awesome bacon browning and impart the aromatic nature of wine into the sauce.

What kind of tomatoes are these?  They’re canned.  Oh, I wish they were whole tomatoes, but this will have to do (crushed).

Step #4 pour the large can of crushed tomatoes into the pan, season with salt and pepper, add in a couple of bay leaves.  Toss in the bacon, chopped, to let it continue to make the sauce bacony.

OK cool, now to see what else there is which could be good in the sauce… Open the fridge again.  Oh great!  We still have parsley, and, what’s this?!  LEFTOVER BASIL!  Score!

Step #4 chiffonnade basil and chop up celery to be added when sauce is finishing up.

Now the old leaning into the fridge, poking around, seeing what else could be good.  What about some artichoke hearts?  We need to use those up.  I think that could work with bacon – kind of seems like I should have made a quiche with these things, but too late.

Step #5 drain & rinse hearts, rough chop, and put in with the herbs after the sauce is to your liking.

It is, indeed, ad hoc, or…. shall I say, ad hog.


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Polenta, Autumn, Heart

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I have to say, very few things hit the spot like polenta does.  Last night I was not sure what we would make, but Seth had a recipe he wanted to make that his mom gave him, so we decided to make it!  Upon close inspection, we realised we had no bread – the recipe called for the dish to be served on toasts spread with goats cheese.  I thought there was some polenta left, and so we decided to use that instead.

The recipe was a simple braise of carrots, onion, and mushrooms in water and white wine, finished with basil chiffonnade.  Seth worked on that, and I made the polenta.  Along the way, I thought that it could be interesting to spice the polenta with curry!  I have never tried that, and oh my god is it good.  I was just blown away by the richness of the final product, even though I did not use any stock!  DEFINITELY try it out with this topping, or something like a lamb curry or bolognese spiced with garam masala….  I love finding a new flavor profile within a base I love so much as polenta.  Oh, he wide avenues of creativity warm my heart so much lately.

Braised Carrots 


  • 1-2 tbsp butter
  • 8 carrots, thick hearty chunks of varied shapes & lengths
  • 1 medium red onion, half moons
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, rough chop
  • Water & white wine – about a cup of liquid total, adding more if things get too dry whilst cooking
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • bay leaf
  • 1/4 basil, chiffonnade

Chop up all your veggies, then melt the butter in a pan – preferably one with a lid.  Toss in the veggies with the butter over MH heat and brown them lightly for a minute or two.  Then deglaze with the wine, add water, the bay leaf, cover and let it braise for about half an hour.  Depending on the size you have cut up your carrots, it will vary the cooking time.  By the end, you want them to be fork tender, but not overcooked.  The liquid should reduce down at the end, so uncover it and let that clear off to glaze it all.

Curried Polenta with Goats Cheese


  • 1 cup polenta
  • 3+ cups water (add more during cooking if things get too dry)
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • bay leaf
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup  milk
  • 4 oz goats cheese (more or less if you like)
  • 1-2 tbsp butter
  1. Bring water, wine, bay leaf, lemon, to a simmer and stir in polenta.
  2. Season with salt and pepper, curry powder.  Cover, and let simmer for about 20-30 minutes.  You can add more liquid if you think it’s too dry.
  3. Stir in dairy at the end (milk through butter)

Oh, and for good measure, you may want to consider poaching an egg and heating up some leftover polenta for your breakfast.  To die for!

Beet & Honeycrisp Apple Hummus, Pink Love for Gray Days

I am doing a catering job for a friend of my Mom’s book group.  They are reading a book called The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball.  I was going to make some recipes from the book, but I could not get a hold of a copy.  Since Anne liked what I made for the Midtown Gallery opening for my Mom’s featured show at Art Hop last Friday, I decided to make one of them again, and some other things made with as much local produce as I could get.

Today is my birthday, and a day off, AND (lucky me) the farmer’s market is open!  I went for a run, biked a little, lifted some weights, and then went to the market.  I bought produce from several of the vendors – eggplants, late season tomatoes, zucchini, beets, sweet potatoes… and then I looked down to the back corner where there was a stand full of things, but set farther away from everyone else.  I headed over towards the apples I could see, and decided to get some Honeycrisps there.  I started talking to the two guys there – elderly men who looked like they have worked Very Hard.  One man was pretty stooped over, and I noticed he had a metal hook for a hand.  He was so friendly, and was trying so hard to sell me other things.  The other man said his name was William, and he was sort of super overly friendly, and kind of a close talker.  I told him it was my birthday, mostly because I was at a loss to respond to his telling me that things were not going all that well for them at the market (not many people – a cloudy, threatening to be a rainy day day).   He told me I should go to Finley’s where they give you a nice lookin’ steak complete with mashed potatoes, bread, and a drink for free on your birthday.  Maybe he’s right.  I walked away with some unplanned cider, and well wishes.  Sometimes things make me happy and sad all at once.  I guess that’s what it means to be human.

I got home and set to work.  First I roasted the eggplants along with some red peppers and tomatoes I had.  I also roasted the zucchini, some garlic, and onion.  They were just tossed with lots of olive oil, salt and pepper, and some good balsamic vinegar.  When they were done, I mixed everything together, added some nice extra virgin olive oil I got – some really tasty stuff – added some chopped parsley, capers, lemon juice, and some more salt and pepper.  I wanted to make this since I could prepare it advance, and it is supposed to sit around for a few days before you eat it, to let the flavors develop.  The food is intended for Sunday, so it will have a few days to improve.

I also made the hummus in advance for the same reason.  I want the flavors to really get married and all awesome.  This was SO fun to make.  I looked up a couple of recipes online, and then I saw the apples on the counter.  I had left them in the plastic bag, and I was not sure what I was going to do with them.  I decided it would probably be a great idea to put a few in the hummus.  I think I will have to tell William and his friend about this later – show them a photo.  I think they’d get a kick out of it.


Beet & Honeycrisp Apple Hummus

This is for a double batch

  • 2 – 14 oz cans of garbanzo beans (or prepare them yourself if you like from dried beans)
  • 5-6 small/medium beets, roasted, skinned & choooed
  • 2 honeycrisp apples, skinned, cored & chopped up
  • 3 tbsp garlic infused olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 – 5 tbsp tahini
  • juice and zest from a lemon or two
  • Salt to taste, but definitely at least 1 tsp (I used French sea salt and a little pink Himalayan)
  • 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Olive oil to toss beets in for roasting
  1. Preheat oven to 425, and place beets with stems chopped short, and the bottom of the root looped off for easy wrapping up.  Place them on double layer of aluminum foil, and make a little bowl so that when you pour the oil in for coating the beets.  Toss them with some salt and pepper, too, for good measure, and encase them well in the foil.  If you want to be super careful, you can place a sheet pan under them so in case juice leaks, it will not burn on the bottom of your stove and smell really bad.  Roast for about 20-30 minutes – it depends on the size of your beets, so feel free to open up the package and stab a fork into them to see how they are coming along.  When a fork goes in easily, like a cooked potato, remove from the oven and allow to cool before peeling, but don’t wait too long, because it is easier to peel them if they are slightly warm.
  2. Next, chop up the beets, chop up the apples, and mince the garlic.
  3. Put everything into a food processor and let it run until smooth.  You could chunk up some apples or beets and leave  out to add in at the end if you wanted it to be all crazy and chunk or something, but that might be kind of weird.  Let me know if anyone tries that.
While I was writing this entry, the doorbell rang, and my friend and fellow savory cook, Meaghan, stopped by to say hello.  I let her try some of the food I made, and she said that everyone will love it.  It made me so happy to get to share food I cooked with someone on my birthday.  Lately I have been making her sandwiches, and a couple of days ago I made six burritos for people at work.  It feels so nice to make food for people I know, and that it will be fuel for the work that we all do together.  There is something beautiful about that.  Five days a week I spend most of my waking hours enjoying the company of these people more than I ever realised I could.  I truly feel loved, and I laugh harder than I have in years most of the time.  Today, though, I spent the day quietly – cooking, listening to music, listening to silence, listening to my heart, and wondering about year 26.  Using my day to work for myself doing what I love seems like a pretty promising beginning.
I recently quit Facebook, and so I am having a non-Facebook reminder/news feed oriented attention swarm of well wishes.  It feels better, because I am a big loner, and I have always felt strange that people I never speak to acknowledge my existence for a moment.  That’s fine, but it was nice to see who can remember with their brain, and then wants to let me know they’re glad I am here.  I’m glad I’m here too, and I hope that I will get to make food with the rest of you far off people before too long.  I think that this is that happy and sad at the same time thing again.

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Pro Bono Cooking

Usually I am paid to cook, but today (my day off!), I cooked for MYSELF.  It always feels so good to do, and I have to admit, I do not do it enough these days.  Sure, I make simple things, but I do not spend the day making things without recipes like I used to.  It is so nice to be freed from pages of measurements, and it took me a bit to notice how awesome that freedom of creativity truly is.  The intuitive chef has not left the building…

Cooking Day Off began by making my mom brunch.  We received a phone call in the morning saying my grandfather went to the hospital, so I went to out to do some errands in case my Mom would be going up to be with him.  I have only a bicycle, and it is hard to schlep things like gallons of soymilk, eggs, GINORMOUS jugs of vinegar (for daily egg poaching, of course), and loaves of bread that might be smashed.  When I got back home, she had not had breakfast yet, so she asked me if the Donnegal Diner was open for business.  It sure was!

Next, I set forth to deal with a classic Kitchen Manager fail: pulling product from the cold storage without specific plan or timeline for use.  I had this ground venison that I grabbed out of the freezer several days ago, thinking I would make something to use as a wrap filling, or a topping for creamy polenta.  On Thursday, my knees hurt so bad after paid cooking (bike accident, running in crappy shoes – now replaced), that all I wanted to do was buy something.  I do not feel like that very often, but took the opportunity to enjoy some tandoori chicken from Saffron.  I ate leftovers of that for lunch at work on Friday, and then ended up poaching an egg to eat after getting home at 8:30PM, with very sore knees.  Saturday and Sunday are the days I wake up at 5 AM to cycle and arrive at work, er, paid cooking within 15 minutes of 7AM, when my cooking shift begins.  I did that until 5:30, then until 4 on Sunday.  By Sunday evening I was Very Tired, and had my second poached egg in a wrap for dinner.  I LOVE these eggs, by the way.  My fantastic co-worker Amy has chickens, and so on Tuesdays she brings in a dozen for me.  They are multicolored and a adorable, and taste SO GOOD.

Sitting Is Awesome Food - cooking something that takes only 3 minutes that does not involve a microwave = eggs.

Eggs from Amy!

This left me with the going-bad venison in my fridge, a sweet potato and squash that will not cut up or roast themselves, several increasingly brown bananas, and a day off ahead of 6 days not off (paid cooking).  This means it would be smart to do some classic kitchen girl planning – a fantastic opportunity!

I sat for a moment creating my plan of execution: I would get the vegetables roasting, and then deal with the venison, which I wanted to make into something to be frozen and eaten on future busy days… what to do with it?  Should I make kofta patties?  Should I throw together some kind of chili to freeze?  ………TACOS!!!  While roasting vegetables, I would make taco filling.  Which then reminded me of the glut of CSA bell peppers I’d noticed earlier while the Diner was open.  I could make a surplus of onion/bell pepper mixture to combine with the venison, and also freeze some of that to use in something else later.  The bananas would obviously become banana bread, the last project, which I could throw in the oven and do other awesome Pro Bono Cooking Day Off activities such as: taking a nice long shower, doing/putting away laundry, cleaning up bedroom, looking up ideas for carving the pumpkins I bought today, and forcing myself not to work out so my knees will for sure feel awesome over the next six days.

I will simply post a slide show of what I made, and mention a few things about process/ingredients used/etc.

  • I decided to dice the veggies pretty small, add in some onion, garlic, and Pink Lady apple!  I decided to make this cold sandwich wrap filling slightly “Asian” (pardon my awful umbrella term there), so I just chopped it all up, tossed the mixture with olive oil, salt, pepper, a bit of sesame oil, rice vinegar, white miso, and some curry powder.  Set the oven at 400, then popped in the 13×9 metal pan until everything looked done – checking it periodically and stirring to ensure even cooking.
  • I also decided to cook the venison separate from the peppers and onions for a couple reasons.  One, I do not use venison often, an was unsure of its fat content.  I did not want to have the vegetables be totally soaked in fat while cooking, and if I did that, I could drain the meat in a colander to remove excess oil.  I also would be cooking too much of the onion and peppers on purpose, so cooking them separately would mean I could remove as much as I’d like to freeze, and then add in the rest to the meat.
  • At the last minute I decided to cook the bell peppers and onions with some minced garlic and a can of stewed tomatoes.  I thought that would be a nice addition to whatever I make with the frozen remainder, and make the tacos taste better.  The venison turned out not to be as fatty as I expected, and was frankly a bit dry, so I thought the tomatoes would add some moisture in a nice way.
  • For the banana bread, I did use a recipe.  I have enjoyed Simply Recipes for many years, and realised it had been ages since cooking anything based on her work.  My only tweak was in adding about 1/3 cup of greek yogurt to the mix.  I think adding some dairy to cookies and quick breads tends to be a good idea.
  • After cooking the mixture of roasted vegetables in the refrigerator, I added greek yogurt and some nayonnaise, salt and pepper, dijon mustard, chopped grapes, and a bit more rice vinegar.  It is really just a creamy vegetable salad that can be eaten on its own, or in a wrap like I do.  It’s just easy and only seems to taste better after a few days.  I love the combination of sweet and savory, so omit the grapes and apples if you like, or add in some bacon or tempeh or hard boiled eggs.  This is one of those concept recipes I love with infinite potential for flavoring.  It’s just so easy and nutritious – a nice change to make something en masse that is not soup for busy days.

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Here are some other recipes I want to make soon for wrap fillings, but could also be used for other purposes.  They are all fall oriented, because that is the current season, and I can’t think of any better excuse to eat more squash!!

Work Inspired

I work at Water Street Coffee Joint in Kalamazoo, MI.  I cook food there – it is a great job.  I get to work with some fabulous, smart, interesting people as we talk, banter, postulate, fantasize, rant, dish out the cynicism, sarcasm, jokes, political commentary, share music, talk about Classical music and listen to it (with Matt and Stephanie – fellow Classical music wonks), and, of course we talk about food a whole lot, too.  I love my work, workplace, and counterparts.  Oh, and the coffee is pretty damn good, too…

Anyway, we make this one thing called Chicken Pecan Salad.  I love it, but I tend to be opposed to consuming salads where the first ingredient is Mayonnaise.  The dressing recipe is fine – using mayo, honey, poppy seeds, cider vinegar – but I prefer to use Greek yogurt (which, interestingly, has seen a 2500% increase in purchases during the past 6 years – check out this article from The Atlantic regarding this topic.)

Right now, my body is intolerant of wheat gluten, so I picked up these flax and millett lavash wraps for my chicken salad.  I have not had any gluten free wraps aside from corn tortillas, and I thought it was pretty tasty!  I am going to try some gluten free bread soon, too, which I plan to review.  Hopefully I can eat fantastic local bread again soon – send good vibes to my body, it could use any additional love it can get 😦 Usually things like this make me laugh a whole lot, though, and sometimes, that’s super awesome.  Even if my body is doin’ its thang, at least I have The Internet to provide an endless source of entertainment (and music)!

Work Inspired Chicken Salad

Note: I did not weigh out or measure the amounts of things used, as I have been so lax in updating, I was sitting down to eat when I realised that this could, like, go on my neglected food blog.  I am estimating, so feel free to experiment and scale according to what are estimates.  Thankfully, chicken salad is one of those things where you can add slowly, so when you are mixing in the yogurt, perhaps smart small, add the other liquids, and then add more of the yogurt if it needs it…


  • Cooked, picked, chopped chicken – a mix of light & dark, of course!
  • Half a bunch of celery, diced
  • 2 cups of grapes, halved or quartered – it’s up to you
  • Half bunch of green onions, chopped or 1/3 a vidalia onion, or a mixture of both
  • Medium sized Pink Lady apple chopped small
  • I used 1/2 cup of Glad Corn because I wanted something crunchy in it, and I did not have any nuts – you could use that amount (or more to taste) of toasted pecans, slivered almonds, pistachios, etc.  Use what you like
  • Roughly 1 cup of Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup Nayonnaise
  • 1/8 cup honey mustard (or plain honey – again, ADD SLOWLY if you use honey, since it’s going to be more intense than the honey mustard)
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1-2 tsbp poppy seeds
  • Salt to taste
Mix everything together well – it’s fun to just use your hands for this part, honestly.  We do that at work (with gloves, of course) and it is the most effective for making a Ginormous Vat Of It.  In this quantity, you could use a kitchen utensil of choice 🙂
Other things that would be good in it: chopped pear, dried cranberries or blueberries, squeeze of lemon, use turkey instead of chicken (yes, I will make it this way for you someday), some roasted potatoes, grilled corn kernels sliced off the cobb, some chopped fresh herb perhaps.  Experiment, have fun!  I suppose this is why people love chicken salad – it’s so easy, you can make a ton, and it’s hard to screw up.  If only the rest of life were always like this.

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During dinner my family is reading this book called the Intellectual Devotional by David S. Kidder.  If ever I get on Jeopardy, this book will have helped.  Today we learned about Handel and Galileo.  This book has taken way longer than a year for us to finish (try four).  Apparently we have not been intellectually devoted in the past, but boy, sometimes things sure do change for the better.  I believe that now more than ever before, and I am grateful.
❤ Liz

spring……………end of summer

And here we are!  Lots of tomatoes, corn, too many herbs to make way too much pesto, cicadas, shorter days, cooler evenings, and fantastic things to cook.

So, given all my options, what sounded awesome?  Yeah, dude.  A BLT.

I used Sarkozy’s “The Other White Bread” and some maple turkey bacon.  Homegrown tomatoes, so juicy.  I put Fage yogurt on my sandwich instead of mayo, some honey mustard, and balsamic glaze.  Oh, and Clancy’s.

Sated and contented, I then I reinvented the wheel.

I think I might be back… Hope you all have been well ❤


O Hai… (Shrimp & Tomato Ragu with Herbs & Greens)

Well hello says the slacker blogger.  I have some exciting things going on lately, and I got so wrapped up in bicycling and job interviewing and making recipes for Dennis over at Blue Dog Greens….. ya know how it goes.  Anyways, I am going to post what I made for dinner tonight.

Tonight is a bottom of the barrel kind of day, as we are waiting for our new installation from Blue Dog (Wednesdays we pick our share up at the Victorian Bakery).  Last Saturday I woke up bright and early, and dropped off my first recipe cards to Dennis.  We are working together this summer to help everybody get some new ideas of what to make with his produce – I have had the pleasure of using so many fantastic vegetables from him over the years, and am well acquainted with creative techniques for using everything up before the next batch comes, by cooking it to eat right away, and to save for later (in the freezer for the Winter In Michigan).  I cannot wait to meet the new people who may be visiting my site!  Don’t be shy – feel free to comment or ask me questions.  I would love to know if anyone has tried my recipes, or has any of their own they’d like to share with me!  I am sure I’ll be around the booth this summer, so I look forward to meeting folks in person as well 🙂

This recipe features bounty from last week’s share: oregano and spinach, plus radishes and garden cress in the salad.

The kale and basil were sprouted and planted by my friend Chanterelle…more about her soon, I promise.  You’ll love her.

Shrimp, Potato, Tomato, Mirepoix Ragu with Herbs & Greens

Serves 4 very hungry people, especially if use it as a sauce for grains


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, half chopped roughy and half minced
  • 2 large carrots, one chopped roughly, one minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz or so of mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 28 oz can of whole canned tomatoes, or fresh if you have them (I’d recommend getting good quality if possible – it really does make a difference)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup red wine (I used balsamic vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup chopped kale
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped oregano
  • 1 cup chopped spinach
  • 2 cups shrimp (mine was just lazy cocktail shrimp, but you can use raw for sure)
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled, diced, and pre boiled
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Put the diced potatoes in a saucepan with salty water and bring to a boil.  Cook until fork tender, then drain and set aside for now.
  2. Heat up the oil in a skillet and begin sauteing the carrot and onion over medium high heat until the onion is becoming translucent or even slightly browned.
  3. Add in the mushrooms, garlic, some salt, pepper, and coriander. Saute for another 5 minutes or so.  If you are using raw shrimp (or any other meat/meat substitute) add that in now.
  4. Dump in the can of tomatoes, bay leaf, lemon juice, and balsamic vinegar.  Stir it up and bring everything to a simmer and stir occasionally for about 20 minutes – just let everything get married in there.  Adjust salt and pepper to your taste.  You can add in the potatoes, too, when you like.  I did this later on so they wouldn’t get overcooked.
  5. When things are looking all tender and stewed, you can toss in the greens.  I do this at the end so they don’t get super mushy, and remain slightly bright and vibrant.
  6. Serve over pasta, polenta, rice, with good bread from your local bakery (I hope!), or just eat it with ye old fork.

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Baking Adventure: Top Secret Focaccia 3 Ways

Beet Focaccia

I have done very little bread baking in my day.  I made a really nasty whole wheat baguette once, made some pretzel rolls that were mediocre, the bagels were good (a lot of work, but worth it), but my main experience has been with making pizza dough.  I have been wanting to expand upon this, and start small.  I asked myself, what kind of bread is easy and cheap to make, tends to be forgiving, but super tasty?  It came to me: focaccia.

First I whipped up a basic dough recipe, and topped it with oil, Italian seasoning, fresh parsley that I’d dried out overnight, and grated smoked Swiss.  I think it may be one of the more delicious things I’ve made lately – fresh out of the oven and warm, served with butter, it was outrageously tasty.  With this success under my belt, I have now adopted the concept of focaccia as two things: a fantastic blank canvass to integrate all sorts of flavors, herbs, seasonings, cheeses, meats, and other fun things in.  It also is something I might be able to sell… That is why the recipe is Top Secret.  I will, dear readers, appease you with some food porn (classy terminology, I know, but if any of you know me, I embody class).  Anyway, so my first foray into crazy focaccia land were chocolate cherry and beet.  More to come as I get more inspired and adventurous!

Oh, and here’s a really tasty looking recipe you can try 🙂  Serve it as a breakfast sandwich like I did, eat with butter, regular sandwich, eggs benedict, and use leftovers for sweet or savory bread pudding!

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Edible Plants: Carrots & Multimedia

It has been some weeks since I updated my Edible Plants series.  I am currently listening to the book Farm City: An Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter.  She lives in Oakland, CA and is able to construct a fantastic urban garden, well ultimately farmstead really, on an abandoned lot next to her house – she calls it her “squat garden.”  The writing is humorous and she manages to raise critical issues surrounding the food movement as it pertains to urban people within the larger context of history, industrial agriculture, and the myriad of “fad” or “trendy” takes on how we ought to feed ourselves without a soap box or liturgical ranting style that I felt Gabrielle Hamilton’s writing tended to smack of.  I appreciate the humility and genuine nature of her style where she seems to be merely chronicling her own journey and process through making her vision a reality, and making sense of why she is doing it.

This pertains to the Edible Plant Series because one of the cool things I learned from this book (which is littered with facts about the origins of vegetables, the history of animal husbandry, the history and modern place for the “back to the earth” movement), is that carrots are native to Afghanistan!  I definitely never would have come up with that if you asked me where I thought they started off there.  Another tip towards my discussing carrots today is that my mom ran into our farmer, Dennis, who provides our CSA share.  His farm is called Blue Dog Greens (make sure to check out his website, and if you live in the area, consider getting veggies from him – they are SO good!) form which we will begin receiving produce as of June 1!  He said that he has had a wonderful growing season, and that his carrots are going to be fantastic.  And, if the carrots I have had from him in the past don’t live up to these, we are going to be in for a real treat – they are SO GOOD.

Carrots began their culinary journey in Asia around 5,000 years ago.  They did not start out orange!  They were typically purple, but other colors existed as well.  Bitter in nature, they were first used medicinally, but, as with most plants that are domesticated, the roots became larger and sweeter with time.  Apparently, they were considere to be an aphrodisiac 😉

Greeks hated carrots, but the Romans loved them because their culture tended to be more accepting of robust flavors.  Eating them cooked and raw, the early Roman cookbook Apicius even includes them in its pages.  In the 12th century AD, Moors brought the roots to continental Europe where they spread to Great Britain and were cultivated there before coming to the New World.  The orange color has resulted from selective breeding, and tended to be more appealing to the eye.  This resulted in carrots becoming widely accepted as something for people to eat.

The Dutch are actually responsible for this change from purple to orange where they were used New World mutant seeds to steer the carrot towards sweetness rather than its typically bitter nature.  Yellow carrots (the mutants) were crossed with ye old purple ones, and resulted in orange carrots!  They are rumoured to have been adopted by The House of Orange under William I as the national vegetable in honor of the fight for independence from Spain.

Carrots are, thus, delineated into two categories – the original and bitter Eastern variety, and the new Western, under which there are a few general classifications.

  • Chantenay carrots are typically shorter and wider with a very thick top and blunt bottom.  They tend to be used in canned goods or other processed and pre cooked creations.
  • Danvers are conical and have a well defined tip.  They are slightly longer than the Chantenay type and can tolerate heavier soils.  Developed in the 19th century in Danvers, MA, they are now used for the most part in pureed baby food you buy at the grocery store.
  • Imperator carrots are the kind we usually see sold in bags at the store.  They are, on average, the third longest of the carrot varietals.
  • Nantes are the shortest and are much sweeter than any other type.

They are related to parsnips, best grown in sandy soil and cooler temperatures.  They flower after their second year of cultivation – they are biennials.  Adding a sweet flavor to dishes when cooked, they are often used in stocks, soups, braises, and other things that are cooked slow and steady.  As a side, they are fantastic if you steam or boil them and toss with butter or oil and some chopped herbs, salt and pepper.  Carrots are a mainstay of cooking, appearing in the tried and true mirepoix – the base for so many traditional dishes in European cuisine – consisting of celery, carrots, and onion.

We all know carrots are supposedly great for the eyes.  If you are focused on Beta Carotene, make sure to cook them for maximum benefits, as only 3% of beta carotene is released during digestion when consumed raw, and jumps to 39% when cooked!  Beta Carotene is metabolized into Vitamin A.  Eating too many will actually turn your skin orange – this is not a myth.  Vitamin A is responsible for improving eyesight (a lack of it actually will negatively affect your night vision).  During WWII in England pilots were encouraged to eat more carrots in order to improve their ability to shoot at enemy targets.  Carrots are also known to help with improving digestion, fighting off intestinal parasites, and mitigating both tonsillitis and constipation.

Something else I would love to share with you is this piece I listened to earlier today on NPR’s show Being.  They show’s host interviews chef Dan Barber in front of a live audience.  He is a chef at the Blue Hill Farm restaurants in New York – they have two locations: one on Manhattan and another in the Hudson Valley on a farm.  He is a visionary and smart person who happens to also be quite funny.  I appreciate his take on food, and I like this particular piece as it focuses on ethical issues surrounding the local food movement.  I felt like it was particularly timely given that I am listening to the previously mentioned book!  As Susan and my Mom would say, a case of Mexican Wrestler Syndrome 🙂  I encourage you guys to listen to it and check out the restaurants when you’re on the East Coast.  For good measure, I will toss out this recipe for his scrambled eggs recipe that I found!

Dan Barber of Blue Hill Farm

Olive Oil Cake, Honey Lemon Goat Cheese Buttercream

This week’s potluck cookoff is themed Greens & Herbs.  I love to do the you think it should be sweet but it’s savory trick, and decided I’d make an olive oil cake.  I had one once for dessert at an Italian restaurant last year involving an impromptu afternoon trip to botanic gardens, a bottle of wine, bike ride ghetto kids style, and all sorts of hijinx.  The cake and day were both really good.

Since this is for the cookoff, which will produce a cookbook at the end, I am not going to post the recipe – unless it wins, and then I will amend this post 😉  We shall see… Instead I will provide another recipe that I came across while researching how to make this kind of cake, and it sounded very awesome.  It involves chocolate, and you know you can’t go wrong if there is chocolate involved.  If you have not looked at this website, it is fantastic also, so make sure to check out other things besides this.

I hope you guys can put up with some nice pictures until I know the verdict on how it tastes, not just how it looks!

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