Sunday, May 31, 2020

Covid Cafe: Simple, Nourishing Food

Hello, chefs. Our Mexico City correspondent checks in today with an idea on keeping it simple.

Carolina writes: I am into simple ingredients, instruction, and preparation. I call this green soup. Put on a big pot of water. Add broccoli, Brussels sprouts, celery, garbanzo beans, corn, potatoes--anything you want--cut into cubes. Add a lot of oregano, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, thyme, and garlic powder. Boil for a bit until everything is cooked to the texture you prefer. 

Top with a whole avocado cut into bite-sized pieces and sour cream or plain unsweetened yogurt.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Enjoy with a Pinot Grigio!

What Kind of Times Are These
There's a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled
this isn't a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it's necessary
to talk about trees.

Plant intelligence

Yo-Yo Ma 

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Covid Cafe: James Beard's Irish Soda Bread

Good day, chefs. What are you making to eat today? We're on the south end of our provisions so first meal for us was cabbage and onions with sour cream and tamari to accompany a nice steak from the grill. Nobody's going hungry here.

Our friends in Wisconsin got going on soda bread when they couldn't obtain yeast during the early days of the pandemic. They like it because it's faster than yeast bread--no waiting for yeast to proof with warm water, no waiting for the bread to rise, no punching it down and waiting for it to rise again.

Bill writes: Bread making is an art and a science. The art resembles pottery, kneading the dough and spreading flour and mess everywhere. It's good fun. Science because making bread is a lot like chemistry with the exacting combinations of ingredients and processing the mixture by baking it at an exacting temperature for an exacting length of time. So much for theory, therein lay the mysterious properties of the bread in our oven.

From Beard On Bread, pgs. 164-5
Irish Soda Bread
(online recipe here)
We prefer Beard’s whole wheat and unbleached, all-purpose white flour recipe. It is best sliced thin and toasted, served hot and buttered. The alternative white flour recipe calls for the same total amount of unbleached, all-purpose white flour instead of whole-wheat.  Either is fast and easy to make, but it is a heavy bread.  Be sure it is adequately baked.

3 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. Salt
1 level tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. double-acting baking powder
1 1/2 to 2 cups buttermilk (we substitute 1 cup yogurt and 1 cup milk soured with 1 Tbsp. lemon juice)

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix very thoroughly.  Make an indentation in the flour mix and add the yogurt and the soured milk.  Combine by hand to make a biscuit dough.  If it is too stiff add a small amount of milk.  Knead the dough on a floured surface for several minutes until smooth and velvety.  Form into a round loaf and place on a well-buttered cookie sheet or round cake pan.  Cut an X across the top of the loaf.

Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes.  Tap the bottom of the loaf.  If it does not sound hollow cook it an additional 5 to 10 minutes and test it again.  

Cool on a rack.

Experimentally, we tried making two loaves from the one loaf recipe’s ingredients because we like the crust so much (editor's note: wholly concur).

Here's the outcome showing two loaves, one of which was sliced prematurely.  I nailed it back together with toothpicks and baked it again for and additional half hour.

NB: Beard's temperatures and bake timing worked well for my first loaf, but apparently we had trouble with the oven later. I followed the New York Times recommendations for time and temperature, 15 minutes at 450 degrees reduced to 400 degrees for 35 minutes (ours took still longer).  

An interesting result from the NYT recipe: the very high initial temperature causes a hard crust to form.  It's good if you like a very crunchy crust. I'd suggest following Beard or just setting the temperature at 400 degrees and letting the bread bake.  If it doesn't work, stick it back in the oven.

It's such a dense bread I don't think you could overcook it as long as it doesn't burn.
(Please pass the butter.)

Rob walks Chicago:
A prolific year for geese

Bread and Stars
Translated from the Turkish by Sidney Wade & Efe Murad

Bread is in my lap,
Stars are far, far away.
I am eating bread looking at the stars.
I am so engrossed, don’t even ask—
Sometimes I get mixed up and instead of bread
I eat stars.

Black beauty zucchini in flower
(seeds from NZ)

Stand by Me
Karen Gibson and The Kingdom Choir
The Royal Wedding

Friday, May 29, 2020

Covid Cafe: I-Am-My-Brother's-Keeper Roast Chicken

Good morning, chefs. If you've never roasted your own chicken, do it now. No trussing or special equipment is required. Set your oven to 400 F and put the chicken in a pan. Slide it in for an hour, a little longer if your chicken is larger. Choose to oil it and shake herbs all over...or not.

Get a good chicken, one that hasn't been raised standing in its own excrement. It will cost a little more. I threw some cherry tomatoes in here too to roast.

Rudy and Karin's clematis

Every mother's son
If you're not incandescent with rage in the wake of the cop murder of George Floyd, check your conscience. And if you think destroying public property is worse somehow than killing, check your conscience at the freakin' door. 

Charge the cops now who murdered him or stood by and watched. Our nephew rightly wondered if this would be a repeat of the summer of '68.

Also, special note to Minnesota state police: WTAF? Arresting an utterly professional CNN reporter who was asking nicely where his crew should stand? And Omar Jimenez, a man of color to boot? If you missed it, click here to view.

Shame, shame, shame.

RL Burnside

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Covid Cafe: Food+Memory=Vineyard Sauce


Here's an interesting piece on how smells, so closely linked to taste, awaken memory. I have a bunch of these associations. When I smell brewing coffee in cool fresh air, for example, my brain thinks "camping in Canada" and I'm immediately in a relaxed state.


Sounds matter too, as Rob's memories of summer trips to Martha's Vineyard attest. He writes...


It was 20 years ago this June when Wayne and I spent our first of many weeks in a cottage on Martha’s Vineyard.  We had made a scouting trip earlier and hand-picked this gem. Wayne was celebrating a milestone birthday and we had a guest staying with us.  I cooked the full week, enjoying the well-curated kitchen and the porch screen door held closed by an old spring. When it banged shut it said, “Summer.”

We ate most of our meals on the porch.

That first year, I armed myself with printed copies of all the recipes I needed for a full week.  The first night was grilled swordfish and with it I served a roasted vegetable sauce.  

We quickly learned the sauce went with everything.  A little on eggs in the morning, on a lunch sandwich, or just for vegetable dipping.  The next year I made the same sauce, and so it went for several years. On each first night I made a batch of sauce and we soon forgot the actual name and just started calling it Vineyard Sauce.



To make the sauce:
1.     Preheat the broiler.  Line a baking sheet with foil, put the pepper halves on it, skin side up, and flatten them with your hands.  Put the tomato halves and onion slices on the baking sheet in a single layer.  Lightly coat the vegetables with cooking spray.
2.     Separate the garlic head into cloves.  Place them on the baking sheet.
3.     Put the baking sheet under the broiler for about 15 minutes, or until the pepper has blackened.  Check to see if the garlic is soft; if not, remove the other vegetables and give it a few more minutes.  Put the pepper halves in a zip-top bag and seal.  Let stand for 15 minutes, then peel the pepper.
4.     Separate the garlic cloves from the vegetables.  Squeeze them to extract the pulp, discarding the skins.
5.     Put the broiled vegetables, the garlic pulp, mustard, vinegar, oil, cilantro, pepper, olives and minced garlic in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.


Taste recollections are powerful reminders of place and time.  Just making the sauce takes me to cool breezes, sand in my toes, swimming in the ocean, and loving life.


(Chefs, I can attest to the allure of the Vineyard Sauce. It's a perfect and easy pandemic project.)

Vineyard Sauce
For the sauce
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and halved 
3 plum tomatoes cut lengthwise in half (about ½ pound)
1 small red onion, cut into ½-inch thick slices
1 whole garlic head
2 tablespoons coarse-grain stone-ground mustard
1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
1-tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 green olives, pitted
4 black olives, pitted
2 garlic cloves, minced


Jack Johnson & Paula Fuga 

Country Road and Give Voice

Kokua Festival 2020 Live From Home

 Pine nuts


All our life 
so much laundry; 
each day’s doing or not 
comes clean, 
flows off and away 
to blend with other sins 
of this world. Each day 
begins in new skin, 
blessed by the elements 
charged to take us 
out again to do or undo 
what’s been assigned. 
From socks to shirts 
the selves we shed 
lift off the line 
as if they own 
a life apart 
from the one we offer. 
There is joy in clean laundry. 
All is forgiven in water, sun 
and air. We offer our day’s deeds 
to the blue-eyed sky, with soap and prayer, 
our arms up, then lowered in supplication.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

19-Day Ordeal in Hostile Environment for Two Nelson (NZ) Trampers

Today we break to share the happy news that two NZ trampers who'd been missing in the wild (and wonderful) region west of Golden Bay, Kahurangi National Park, have been rescued. 

Here's a vid we shot near Anatori, where even the gravel road ends when it runs into Kahurangi National Park. This is where the pair set off. (NZ's vast quantities of unspoiled nature take my breath away, every time.)


O'Connor, a kayak guide, and Reynolds, a chef, had set off to explore the remote, beautiful and unforgiving Anatori area on Golden Bay's remote West Coast.
However, after leaving on May 9, the pair got into trouble early on...
It was believed Reynolds and O'Connor became lost within the first days of their trip due to fog. Read more here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Covid Cafe: Refrigerator Pickles + Eggplant, Feta, and Lemon Tart

This crazy dogwood it setting up buds
(you'll see what I mean by crazy when it blooms)

We are all a hungry bunch, it seems. Are you still eating out there? Send us your snaps with a little info on what you made. No food is too modest! Holly and Rob return today with a really nice refrigerator pickle and an eggplant, feta, and lemon tart.

Brats on the grill

Rob's been busy in his kitchen. He writes: Saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen this morning and thought I would give it a try. (Deb at Smitten Kitchen notes: These are refrigerator pickles; no canning/vacuum seals/sterilized jars needed. You simply keep them in the fridge, where they will last for up to a month.)

Red, yellow, and orange peppers, some radish, carrots, and cabbage.

Into mason jars, ready for the pickling solution.

Pour the solution over and screw the cap on

I’m going to let these babies sit for at least a week in the fridge...

Sing along: Longest Time - Quarantine Edition

Holly had only good things to say about this beauty.

Recipe? Yes of course...

What we're drinking
Since January when we first read about the pandemic we've been sipping hot ginger root tea, made by slicing fresh ginger and boiling it. Now that summer's arrived, I keep it in a Ball jar in the fridge and blend with fizzy water and a little lemon.


The Woodpecker

by Elizabeth Madox Roberts

The woodpecker pecked out a little round hole
And made him a house in the telephone pole.
One day when I watched he poked out his head,
And he had on a hood and a collar of red.
When the streams of rain pour out of the sky,
And the sparkles of lightning go flashing by,
And the big, big wheels of thunder roll,
He can snuggle back in the telephone pole.