Tuesday, March 30, 2010

take it on the run, baby!

Can "Show Food" Be "Slow Food?"
One Artist's Efforts to Eat Smarter at Shows and Fairs
Show and fair season. I absolutely love selling in person at shows. I love the set-up, the merchandising, the chatting, and certainly the selling itself. What I don't like is the tendency to eat a bunch of junk for 5 to 8 hours. Or, even worse, the tendency to skip eating and have nothing at all. What to do?
I've really been trying to figure out a good solution to this problem. Unlike packing an ordinary lunch, there are other points to keep in mind. Obviously I don't want to eat something messy, dripping all over the place. Preferably, the food should be a little light on the onion and garlic thing for obvious reasons. It has to travel well in a cooler and can't require heating in almost all cases. And of course I want it to be reasonably healthy. Hm.
So far, the best options seem to be fruit salads with or without a yogurt-type dressing; possibly an easy-to-eat couscous salad with veggies, chicken, and a lightly seasoned dressing. Maybe some type of chickpea spread for a sandwich with veggies?
The other part of the challenge to eat smarter during shows is that I always try to have my "trial run display" up in the living room and I tweak it until it looks just right. This can go on for hours and leaves no time for standing around in the kitchen at midnight, the night before a show, chopping carrots and pureeing chickpeas. So, I guess I will have to start setting up the trial run a day early and try to devote more time to making sure that "show food" is more "slow food."
I welcome all thoughts, comments and helpful hints (and recipes) for this situation. If you're an artisan and you do many shows, what do you do to eat healthier and save money (as well as time) while doing shows?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

one potato, two potato - new potato!

A simple and delicious salad...
what better way to enjoy spring's special produce?
The gorgeous little potatoes and fresh onions above were later transformed into one of the best potato salads I have ever tasted, Garlicky Potato Salad.
This vinaigrette-style potato salad is the perfect accompaniment to grilled foods and keeps well for picnics and other outdoor events.
Using 1-1/2 pounds of potatoes, I started out by cutting the small potatoes in half (in quarters in some cases) and cooked them for about 10 minutes. And yes, the blue potatoes retain their unusual color! The vinaigrette is easy to whip up while the potatoes are cooking, then drain and toss the warm potatoes with the dressing so they can soak up all that luscious garlicky flavor.
For the vinaigrette, combine:
  • 1 to 3 small cloves of garlic, minced (I used 1 small clove, but use more if you adore garlic!)
  • 3 large green onions, white part and a bit of green, minced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (I used a white balsamic vinegar so the colors of the potatoes would remain true)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried), minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
That's it - it's that simple! Chill the salad for a bit, and allow to warm up to room temperature slightly before serving. This serves approximately 6.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

slow and smoky brisket

For many households, a tender and juicy slowly cooked beef brisket is the highlight of the Passover meal. And if there are leftovers... what a great sandwich they make!
This brisket marinates for 4 to 6 hours, then cooks slowly for about 3 hours, so plan ahead. Start off with a gorgeous ruby red borscht, and serve brisket with roasted potatoes and maybe some honey-sweetened carrot tzimmes too!


  • 6 to 7 lb. beef brisket
  • 3/4 tablespoon hickory Liquid Smoke
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion salt
  • freshly ground black pepper - lots!

Combine Liquid Smoke, Worcestershire sauce, the salts and black pepper in a 1 or 2 gallon resealable plastic bag. Add the brisket and marinate in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours.

I like to remove the meat from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking so it is not ice-cold when it is placed in the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 degrees Celsius). Drain brisket slightly and place in a baking dish; cover tightly with aluminum foil and cook in the 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (149 degrees Celsius) and continue to cook at least 2-1/2 more hours, or until brisket is tender and done. Remove from oven, uncover and let meat rest for about 10 or 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

feeling like a spring chicken!

Roast Chicken with
Lemon and Honey
So easy, and perfect for Passover,
or as part of a small, intimate Easter dinner.
Mmm... an aromatic golden brown roast chicken is just the thing for a special spring dinner. The lemony flavor is most concentrated in the skin, crispy from basting with pan juices and honey, but if you're sure to poke the skin a bit before roasting, the lemon flavor will infuse the chicken as it cooks and surprise you with its fresh flavor. Serve with anything from a rice pilaf to roasted baby new potatoes to a sweet potato casserole. If there are any leftovers, they are delicious added to pasta primavera, or sliced cold in a green salad with fruit and a bit of honey mustard dressing.
Start preparation for this chicken the night before cooking.
  • one 6-1/2 to 7 pound roasting chicken
  • 7 medium to large sized lemons
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • kosher salt and lemon pepper (I found that lemon pepper makes this chicken even more lemony and changed the original recipe; you can use regular black pepper if you prefer)
The night before, squeeze the juice of 6 lemons (this will equal about a cup of fresh lemon juice). Trim excess fat from the chicken, rinse and pat dry, then carefully poke holes in the skin (not only will this help flavor the meat with the lemon juice, it will enable fat to melt from the skin and sort of "self-baste" the chicken). Place chicken in a 2 gallon resealable plastic bag with the cup of lemon juice. Refrigerate overnight, being sure to turn the chicken occasionally.
To roast: Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (232 degrees Celsius). Remove the chicken from the bag and discard the lemon juice. Place half of the last lemon into the chicken cavity. Liberally sprinkle chicken with kosher salt and lemon pepper and place breast down on a rack in a roasting pan. (This chicken becomes a bit messy; if you have a non-stick roasting pan, this is the time to use it. If not, I suggest lining the roasting pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil.) Roast at 450 degrees for 15 minutes then turn oven down to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius) and roast uncovered for 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes, turn chicken over to breast side up (I achieve this awkward task with grilling tongs and a grilling fork but you may have a better method). Heat the 1/4 cup of honey until just pourable and brush part of it on the chicken. Return chicken to the oven for another 55 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads that the chicken is fully cooked. During the last 55 minutes of roasting, continue to brush and baste the chicken with honey and pan juices.
Remove from oven when done, sprinkle lightly with the juice of the other lemon half and a bit more salt, tent with foil and let rest for 10 or 15 minutes, then carve and serve. The original recipe suggests serving the chicken with pan juices, but I found them to be mainly fat and some burned honey goo, so I skip that part.
This recipe is based on a recipe first printed in Bon Appetit magazine in April, 2004; I adjusted it to reflect my tastes.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Order and Profusion: The Kitchen Garden

The New Kitchen Garden by Anna Pavord
A Complete Practical Guide to Designing,
Planting, and Cultivating
a Decorative and Productive Garden
Published by DK Publishing - 1996
It's that time of year. Poring over garden catalogs, you've made your selections, now the actual planning of the garden's layout is the task at hand. This is a book you will refer to again and again in the planning stages of the garden of your dreams. "The New Kitchen Garden" by Anna Pavord truly waters the seeds of the gardener's imagination. The first part of the book is devoted to innovative and beautiful original planting designs of various kitchen garden styles including "Formal Fruit Garden," "Vegetable Patchwork," "Cottage Garden," "Salad and Herb Garden," as well as clever designs that maximize growing spaces for smaller yards and urban balconies. Here you will find inspiring designs that emphasize the unexpected beauty of each plant, like "chiseled artichokes" and "handsome leeks." The combination of vegetables and fruits with flowers both decorative and useful is amazing.

The growing section includes information on vegetables, fruits, nuts, herbs and edible flowers. Each plant is illustrated by a stunning detailed photo and is accompanied by directions for its cultivation, recommendations for best cultivars, and a simple, elegant recipe plus helpful culinary notes. A gardening book and a cookbook all in one - my kind of reading!

A thorough section on planting and cultivation techniques discusses topics like types of soil, creating garden structures, crop rotation, feeding and watering, greenhouses, cold frames, training and pruning trees, harvesting and storing, and of course, pests, weeds and diseases. This section has been very helpful to us in caring for our own gardens; the photos are clear and treatments for the problems are practical and effective.

This book is as inspiring and timeless as it was when published in 1996. "The New Kitchen Garden" is easily found online through Amazon and other booksellers; treat yourself to some new yet classic ideas for your own garden. I wish you order and profusion in the months to come!

clean and green from your kitchen

This spring, clean your home
the green way AND save money...
It is now spring in many parts of the world -
time to air out, spruce up and let the sunshine in!

Unfortunately, all of this cleaning can lead to the use of products potentially harmful to the environment, not to mention your wallet. With a little resourcefulness you can create your own non-toxic cleaners for even the toughest household projects at a fraction of the cost of the big name brands.
Most people are aware that a one-to-one combination of water and white vinegar makes a terrific all-purpose cleaner, or that nothing freshens a drain like a good cleansing with baking soda and vinegar. In fact, baking soda is as useful as vinegar for so many cleaning needs, from laundry to housecleaning, and even natural weed control.
For instance, a combination of 1/2 cup baking soda and 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide mixed with 1 cup of hot water makes an amazing stain-fighter that is not harmful to fabric like chlorine bleach. In fact, I've used this combination on pet stains in the carpet and it works a little too well, if you know what I mean. Like "Wow, I didn't know the carpet was that color!"

One of the biggest banes of my existence is keeping my smooth stove top clean. And what IS in that bottle of goop that they sell as cleaner? What a smell. A better alternative is to make your own; the lemon essential oil is an unusual ingredient but it serves as a natural degreaser and is the thing that makes this cleaner work so well. Simply combine 1 cup of water and 1 cup of vinegar with 10 drops of lemon essential oil in a clean spray bottle and shake well. To use, sprinkle baking soda directly onto the burned food on the stove top, then spray with the lemony vinegar mixture. This will fizz just like the drain cleaner; wait until the fizzing stops and wipe clean. Repeat as needed. You will be amazed at the results!

A real hotspot for harsh, toxic cleaners is the bathroom. Keep your bathroom sparkling without all the toxic ingredients by using this simple and cheap tub and toilet cleaner from Vegetarian Times magazine. Sprinkle the surface with borax then spray with a bit of vinegar and scrub. That's it! And once those shower walls are clean, keep them that way with the greenest and overall cheapest cleaner of all - a squeegee.

Here are some other ways to spring-clean
your home greenly and cheaply
with white vinegar:
  • Add 1/2 cup vinegar to your laundry rinse cycle to decrease lint and make colors brighter.
  • Vinegar breaks down uric acid; add it to the rinse cycle for cleaner cloth diapers.
  • Remove coffee and tea stains from china with a combination of vinegar and salt. This mixture also cleans chrome sink fixtures.
  • A combination of 1 teaspoon salt dissoved in vinegar and mixed with flour to form a paste will effectively clean silver, pewter, copper or brass.
  • Got lunchbox stank? Place a slice of bread that has been soaked in white vinegar overnight in the lunchbox.
  • Get rid of those pesky fruit flies by leaving out a small bowl of vinegar. A little leftover wine works as well.
  • Sticky scissors after cutting things like tape? Clean them with a cloth dipped in undiluted white vinegar.
  • Clean up white water rings on wood with equal parts vinegar and vegetable oil.
  • However, never ever use vinegar on marble - it can damage the surface.

Share your favorite uses for vinegar and other natural, cheap cleaners here!

Friday, March 19, 2010

use your noodle!

It seems that there is a special day for everything, and noodles are no exception. And why not? They're versatile, inexpensive, and delicious. Celebrate "National Noodle Month" this March with a steaming bowl of chicken noodle soup, a nice chilled Japanese salad with soba noodles made of buckwheat; fry up a little lo mein, or just nuke a nice cup of ramen noodles in your favorite flavor.
The word noodle itself is derived from the German "nudel" and the first recorded writings about noodles were during the East Han Dynasty between AD 25 and 220. They differ from pasta in one major way: egg solids. The National Pasta Association (NPA) says that in order for a noodle to be legally considered a noodle, it must contain 5.5 percent egg solids by weight. Noodles are also typically made from durum flour (more finely ground than pasta's semolina). And yes, pasta has its own month - October.

Technicalities aside, here is one of my favorite noodle dishes using some of my favorite noodles - soba noodles from Japan. I love their almost chewy texture and rich flavor, and they're good cold or hot.

Soba Noodles with Macadamia and Sesame


  • 6 ounces soba noodles
  • 2 ounces macadamia nuts, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons soy or tamari sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 green onion, all white and part of green, minced or sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Cook soba noodles in boiling water according to package directions; 6 minutes is about enough. Watch them carefully - they WILL foam up fast!
Toast macadamia nuts in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes and set aside to cool.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and sesame seeds and saute about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, the vegetable oil, soy sauce and vinegar; whisk to combine.
Add the macadamia nuts, green onion and cilantro to the soba noodles.
Pour sesame sauce over noodles, mix thoroughly, and serve hot, room temperature, or cold. This will make about three or four servings. Two if you're serving me.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

new for the kitchen garden

It's that time.... seed catalogs stacked to the ceiling... garden plans graphed neatly... tiny peat pellets sprouting new life, promising a season of bountiful richness.

The Lonesome Road gardens are a bit soggy at the moment, but the choices have been made for this year's kitchen garden. Of course we have more seeds than we could possibly ever need (how did we end up with 7 or 8 different kinds of lettuce?). Yet enthusiasm wins over practicality every year and so we will get to work in the garden once again in a couple of months. Besides, any extra produce is always welcome at local food pantries and as part of Plant A Row For The Hungry.

The newest addition to the Lonesome Road kitchen garden this year will be the herb epazote. I am a Rick Bayless fan; I have been to his fabulous Chicago restaurant Frontera, I have one of his many cookbooks, and I love to watch his cooking show "Mexico One Plate At A Time." One of the ingredients that Bayless uses often in his authentic Mexican cooking is epazote; it's not readily found in my area stores so I ordered seeds to plant my own and will give it a try this year. In my research, I discovered that epazote is often used in bean dishes because it has digestive properties, kind of a natural "Beano."

I am also treating myself to Ichiban eggplant this year. In previous years I've planted several varieties of eggplant; the little white ones that look like actual eggs, the lovely lavender and white ones, and the list goes on. I've never really liked the texture and seediness of the others but have always longed for those elegant long, dark Japanese eggplants that need no peeling. So I found what I was looking for in my trusty seed catalog, and I will hopefully have a bumper crop of Ichiban eggplant for everything from ratatouille to Chinese stir-fries and oh yes... tempura!

Of course the usual suspects will be included this year. Last year was not a good year for tomatoes on the Lonesome Road; we will try again for a good crop of Roma tomatoes for my awesome homemade pizza sauce which is made in large quantities for the freezer (yes, I will post the recipe here!). Other garden favorites to be planted this year are Cubanelle and Poblano peppers, and herbs. This year the herbs will be part of a container gardening system; with my busy schedule of juggling a job and an ever-increasing show schedule, I just don't have the time to pick weeds in an extensive herb garden. Plus, it gives me an excuse to buy some cool pottery *wink*.

Post your garden suggestions here; what's new in your garden this year, and old favorites that you can't live without.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

an appetizing St. Patrick's Day!

This St. Patrick's Day, take the opportunity to sample some of Ireland's wonderful cheeses as part of a cheese course or appetizer spread.
Most people are familiar with delicious Dubliner cheese (actually created not in Dublin but in Ballineen in West Cork) but there are so many others to fall in love with. Among the most well-known are Gubbeen also made in West Cork, Durrus raw cows' milk farmhouse cheese, Blarney by Kerrygold and the Roquefort style cheese known to gourmets as Cashel Blue, made in Tipperary. Looking for something a little different? Try a vintage Cheddar Irish Whiskey Cheese made with Kilbeggan Whiskey or Cahill's Porter, a hand-crafted Irish Cheddar made with Porter. If not readily available at a shop, most of these cheeses may be purchased online and are well worth the effort.
Of course, many Irish cheeses are perfectly fabulous served with Irish soda bread. Personally I also enjoy many of them with the assertive taste and rustic texture of rye crispbreads. If serving Irish cheeses as part of a larger appetizer spread, also be sure to include some incredible Irish smoked salmon for a traditional and tasty touch. And don't forget to enjoy a fine Irish beer with your feast - Guinness, Harp and Smithwick's are the most well-known, but O'Hara's is quickly gaining in popularity. Ireland also has a few wineries, primarily in Cork. Most Irish wines tend to be whites, which accompanies the smoked salmon and most cheeses very well.


Monday, March 15, 2010

green with a twist - cabbage hash for St. Patrick's Day

Corned beef and the fixings is really a dish that cooks itself with very little fuss. This year, why not take a little extra time with some of the side dishes, making them extra-special and delicious as well as nutritious?
This colorful, tasty and different Cabbage Hash is inspired by a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, "Vegetarian Planet" by Didi Emmons. The original dish is called "Little Cabbage Hash" referring to the use of Brussels sprouts as the main ingredient instead of cabbage. As expected, cabbage works perfectly in this recipe as well. Try it for something different this St. Patrick's Day, or any time you're in the mood for a simple but easy vegetable side dish.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups minced onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. cabbage, thinly shredded or chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped in small pieces
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 red or orange bell pepper, minced and seeded
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Saute onion in olive oil until soft. Add garlic, cabbage, and carrot to the onions.
Add water and simmer the vegetables, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 8 minutes, or until water is completely evaporated (watch carefully to avoid burning dry).
Then stir in bell pepper, salt and black pepper to taste.
Saute one more minute and serve.

Monday, March 1, 2010

soup of the evening, beautiful soup!

Beautiful Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

- Lewis Carroll

Bright green in color and smooth as silk, this Spring Velvet Soup is rich, lush, packed with vitamins and minerals, and is very low-fat. The flavor is very similar to split pea soup, and its thick, creamy texture is achieved with potatoes, not with traditional thickeners or dairy products.

I've adapted this recipe from a terrific cookbook purchased at a farmers' market: "Simply in Season" by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert. The book encourages all of us to eat fruits and vegetables in season for freshness, taste, nutrition, variety, environment and local health.

  • 2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large leek, diced - white part and 1 inch of green
  • 1 large stalk celery, diced
  • 2 teaspoons dried tarragon (or 2 tablespoons fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • 5 or 6 medium potatoes (about 3 cups), peeled and diced
  • 1 bunch spinach, torn (about 2 or 3 handfuls)

In a large saucepan, saute onion, leeks and celery in olive oil over medium-low heat until wilted and not browned, about 15 minutes. Add tarragon, thyme, salt and pepper and combine well. Add broth and potatoes. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Add spinach and simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove soup from heat. Puree soup in small batches in a blender or food processor. Return soup to pan and place over low heat to continue heating.

If you like, 1/2 cup of milk can be added to the soup. Also, taste for seasonings. Garnish with a swirl of plain yogurt, sprigs of fresh herbs, or pretty chive blossoms.

Serves 4 to 6.


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