Showing posts from May, 2011

Guest Post!

Check out my guest post "Catering as a Wedding Gift" at 2000 Dollar Wedding! And leave a comment there, too, if you'd like!

Burdock, Seitan, Nettles, Oh My!

While traveling recently, we ended up sitting behind two women and a lovely little girl who were having lunch on the airplane.  They were eating McDonald's chicken McNuggets and french fries--the familiar, warm smell wafted throughout the entire plane. Even though we might not have wanted to admit it, the smell made us hungry. And so we pulled out our own lunch: a stir fry of burdock root, homemade seitan, hand-picked wild chanterelles, ramps, foraged wild nettles, chives, and ginger all over quinoa and seasonal asparagus.

(take a minute for a giggle)

The contrast could not have been more stark.

And so as we began to eat our stir fry, enjoying the unusual ingredients and bold flavors, we reflected on how much our diet has come to differ from the Standard American Diet, and how this makes us a little sheepish, even as it pleases us culinarily, environmentally, and ethically. Because we don't want to be the food snobs with the weird food, we don't want our diet to differ so …

Stories Inside the Can

Food fascinates me not only in a recreational and personal context, but also in a historical and professional context. Although I haven't spent a lot of time writing about it here (what does that suggest about how I view my work and this blog?!), my dissertation (i.e. my full-time job) is a historical analysis of canned food in twentieth-century America.

To begin the tale of why I chose this topic, let me share several photos with you. Take some time to study each one carefully, to think about what kinds of questions and stories emerge from a close look at these compelling artifacts and an attention to their dates and captions.

Dolores Harris, daughter of FSA (Farm Security Administration) client George Harris, with canned food prepared by her mother. Dameron, Maryland. August 1940:

Mrs. Watkins (project family) in her smokehouse showing canned foods and cured meat. Coffee, Alabama. April 1939:
"In a fish cannery, Los Angeles, Cal." From The Chinese in California, 1850-192…

Walnut Way

When Walnut Way Conservation Corps organizers asked members of the neighborhood what kind of fruit trees they wanted to plant in a community orchard, the neighbors said peaches. Peaches? In Wisconsin?  The organizers were somewhat skeptical about the growing potential of peaches in a  northern Wisconsin climate. But when the organizers checked with local  horticulturists, they found that peaches could indeed grow easily and prolifically in the inner city Milwaukee neighborhood. The peach trees  now produce pink blossoms in spring, ripe fruit in summer, standing as a testament to possibility--to horticultural and human growth alike.

In addition to visiting the Sokaogan Chippewa community as part of this year's CHE place-based workshop, we spent an afternoon with some of the most inspiring, light-filled folks at Walnut Way. Sharon Adams founded the neighborhood organization in the early 1990s, after returning to the neighborhood where she'd grown up and instead of finding t…

Stories of Wild Rice

When most of us eat, we think of the food as something that tastes good, something that provides us nutrients, sometimes as something that builds community.  But rarely is it something that is a product of our labor, that embodies physical work and longstanding tradition.

In the case of many Upper Midwest Native American tribes and their relationship to wild rice, however, food is most centrally a product of labor.

The Sokaogan Chippewa tribe of northeastern Wisconsin originally came to this land because of an Ojibwe prophecy that they would go to where "the food grows on water." And so, basing their livelihood on wild rice farming was a fulfillment of this prophecy.

This is why the community was able to band together with such power and emotion when their waters were threatened by a proposed zinc-copper mine in nearby Crandon, WI.  Beginning in the 1980s, Exxon-Mobil, the world's largest resource corporation was hoping to build this mine near the Sokaogon Chippewa res…

Video Inspiration: How to Cook Quinoa

I've been thinking a lot about the art of filmmaking lately, about its effectiveness as a medium for communicating a message, and about how much creative artfulness can play into this effectiveness.

I came across this video from My New Roots about how to cook quinoa recently, and thought you all might enjoy it--both for its instructional value and its artistic qualities. Beautiful.

My New Roots - How to Cook Quinoa from My New Roots on Vimeo.

Garden planning

Although I'm still a total novice at garden planning, I spent a couple of hours putting together our 2011 garden plan a few days ago, and I figured I'd share my work, if only to get feedback and advice from those of you who know what you're doing. We've had a garden here at our condo for a couple of years now, but have approached it in a pretty haphazard way, throwing some random seedlings and seeds into the ground--ones we've acquired from friends, our CSA, or a seedling sale here or there.  We've focused pretty heavily on tomatoes and peppers and herbs, just because we know we love them all and have had success growing them. Last year, I started some seeds indoors, and had mild success in that venture, even without grow lights, but many of those plants got taken over by runaway squash.

This year, we have an 8' x 10' plot, and I would like to try out the Square Foot Gardening technique, or some modified version of it. We're starting with sixteen to…

Hen Party

As I think I've made pretty clear on this here blog of mine, I like food.  But I like food not only because it is delicious and thought-provoking and community-building, but also because it can be fun.

And what says "fun" at a bachelorette/hen party more than penis-shaped food? (We could probably come up with many more things, but there's something so contradictorily amusing about a bunch of unconventional academics trying to re-enact mainstream traditions in a semi-ironic fashion, right?)

My friend AW came back to Madison this week to attend a CHE place-based workshop (which I'll write more about soon) and to celebrate her impending nuptials with some folks around here.

The evening was filled with phallic cheese plates and straw accessories:

Delicious food in the appropriate shapes: asparagus, zucchini, baguette, manicotti (the latter covered with  ooey gooey cheese and flavorful mushroom-tomato sauce in the third photo below):
...and some sausages. AW was not a…

Walnut Burgers

Although there are lots of veggie burgers out there that hit the spot (if not Boca), perhaps my favorite is a walnut burger that we first tried at a local diner, Monty's Blue Plate, when we moved to Madison, and have been enjoying ever since.

After heading to this diner again and again just to eat these burgers, we learned that they're actually made by the Trempeleau Hotel in western Wisconsin, and that the hotel sells these burgers, frozen, through various outlets in Wisconsin, including our very own co-op! Since this awesome discovery, we've been buying them and cooking them ourselves at home. I recently just found that you can also buy them online, here! So, if and when we move from Madison, we won't have to despair for too long.

What would be even cooler, of course, is if we could figure out how to make these babies ourselves at home. Considering the ingredients (walnuts, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, bread crumbs, organic tamari, organic eggs, canola oil, her…


I've recently discovered a new website that is awesome--both for inspiration, and for wasting lots of time. It's called Pinterest, and is basically a virtual corkboard where you can collect images from around the web, and share them with friends. It's great because it captures the link to the original page, so you can follow any image to its original source for more information.

And you can organize your pinned photos by theme onto different boards. So, I've of course made one for Food, but also ones for Homemade Presents, for Home Inspiration, and more.  Check out all my boards, and if you sign up for Pinterest, let me know, so we can follow one another!

Noodles with Soy Sauce

Our favorite restaurant in Madison (which totally deserves its own post before too long) has one dish that's gotta win the award for "most flavorful dish with the most boring name": Noodles with Soy Sauce.

For a while now, Justin has been trying to recreate this dish at home. And although each incarnation has been delicious, it's been quite difficult to recreate the real deal, so we've taken to calling this dish "Spicy Noodles" instead.  After lots of requests from me, Justin finally committed this dish to a written recipe for my Flavors of Madison cookbook.

Spicy Noodles
One small/medium onion, finely diced 2 large cloves garlic, crushed or diced 1 serrano chile 1 large head broccoli 1 cup chopped mushrooms (optional) 4 T sambal oolek chili paste 1 T Sriracha 1 T soy sauce 2 T Hoisin sauce 1 T Toasted sesame oil 1 T sugar ½ cup water Noodles 1 block tofu 3 eggs
Chop the tofu, marinate it in tastiness of some sort, and toss it in the toaster oven while you do the other …

The Vegetannual: Seasonal Eating

In her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver offers a really useful image to help us think about seasonality and when different fruits and vegetables will be ripe and reading for the eating. She calls it the vegetannual.

 She suggests that the seasonal nature of vegetables follows the general development of one single plant itself: from leaves to green fruits to colorful fruits and back to roots again. I find it a really lovely and satisfying image.

In her own words:

"To recover an intuitive sense of what will be in season throughout the year, picture a season of foods unfolding as if from one single plant. Take a minute to study this creation--an imaginary plant that bears over the course of one growing season a cornucopia of all the different vegetable products we can harvest. We’ll call it a vegetannual. Picture its life passing before your eyes like a time-lapse film: first, in the cool early spring, shoots poke up out of the ground. Small leaves appear, …

New Page: How-To

In my continuing effort to make this blog more usable, I've just added a new How-To page, at the top of the blog, along with the About Me, About this Blog, and Recipes. "Ongoing Projects" still to come!

I don't quite know which direction this How-To page will go, but I've just begun by adding a few links to posts that describe certain methods that might be nice to have bookmarked and highlighted in a special way.  Please let me know if there are other posts that you think would fit in well!

And again, if you have any suggestions about the blog more broadly--types of posts you like best, recipes you'd like to see, questions you have, food topics you want to know more about--please do let me know!

Slow Food UW Cookbook

I recently wrote a couple of articles for the Slow Food UW Hands-On Cookbook--a really neat compilation of all the recipes from the group's Family Dinner Nights, along with articles about practical-food related skills. You can download the whole thing here, for free!

And here are the articles I wrote (on pages 36 and 52 of the cookbook), about Pressure Cooking (which I've written about before) and about Canning (which you're sure to read more about soon). Click on the images to enlarge them for easier reading.


End of the GreenHouse Year

After talking about backyard chickens and eating ethical chocolate, the GreenHouse year really came to a close with the End-of-Year Banquet, which took place in the beautiful Allen Centennial Gardens on a few warm hours that we managed to squeeze out of this cold and wet spring. The tulips were starting to bloom, and little buds were peeking out all around.

But even the oncoming signs of spring weren't as hopeful or as heartwarming as the closing reflections offered by our faculty director and program director:

...and by a few eloquent GreenHouse residents.

These members of the GreenHouse community spoke of what this year meant to them, of how much their freshman years of college had been forever shaped by the experience of living in this dorm that offers unparalleled resources and environmental ideas and community.  I was really moved by this short speeches, by hearing from the student themselves how much it meant to be engaged and stimulated not only in the classroom, but also i…

Kallari Cooperative: Ethical Chocolate

Continuing the stretch of final GreenHouse events (with one more to go, tomorrow), our final Global Food for Thought Meal was focused on Ecuadorian cuisine and the Kallari Cooperative, a group of cacao farmers who also produce their own organic and sustainable (and delicious!) chocolate.

Although for previous dinners (as with the ones focused on Tuscany, on Hunger, on Nepal, on Indonesian/Vegetarian cuisine), the guest chefs or the Housing and Dining Services staff had come up with the menu, I actually came up with this Ecuadorian menu all myself, with the help of a lot of online research and a great blog I discovered that featured a lot of food from Ecuador.

I developed a menu that featured a range of popular dishes in Ecuador, but that was also feasible, given the constraints of the Dining Services labor and resources:

The plantain chips, aji criollo, pickled red onions, and mango juice:

The ensalada mixta, locro with avocado, and cod ceviche:

There was also spiced rice and mushro…

Backyard Chickens and Quiche

The final Make-Your-Own Meal Night that I organized at the GreenHouse featured Quiche and a talk on backyard chickens by our egg-providers, MH and NO. (The previous MYO nights, which you can read more about, featured Burritos, Winter Vegetables, and Sushi.)

MH brought eggs from her chickens, Phoenix and Big Red, and the GreenHousers tried to identify whether they could tell a difference from the backyard chicken eggs and those I bought at the co-op (also organic, free-range, relatively local, and from small-ish chicken farms). Can you observe any differences? Any guesses as to which is which?

I brought all the crusts and fillings for the quiches pre-prepped and the students just mixed up the custard and assembled the quiches, according to Mollie Katzen's formula.

While the quiche-y goodness baked, MH and NO gave an entertaining and enlightening talk to a small group of GreenHouse students about the joys, the trials, and the ins and outs of raising backyard chickens.  They shared …

Mama's Ikra: Eggplant Spread

Ever since 1984, my beautiful Mama and I have been holding each other tight (though I no longer fit so comfortably in the crook of her arm).

In honor of yesterday's Mothers' Day (notice the apostrophe placement!), I'd like to share one of my mother's recipes, and to thank her for how much she has done to shape me. So much of what I am--especially as a cook, as a nurturer, and as a confident woman--can be attributed to the example she has set throughout my life.

This dish, known as eggplant "caviar" in Russia, is one that my Mama made throughout my childhood, and was a favorite of mine, slathered on fresh-baked bread.  It was pretty much the only way I had ever eaten eggplant, so I was in for a rude shock the first time I tried some spongy, bland eggplant vegetarian entree at a restaurant. What was this imposter standing in for the eggplant I knew and loved?

And although I have since learned to enjoy eggplant cooked in a variety of ways, this dish is still my…