Grace's Goodness

Get fresh with yourself.

Hotter than July

An afternoon jaunt in Jasper, Ga

It’s that time of year again.

Sweltering.  You know, so hot that everything around you seems like it could reverberate.

All life starts to swell up and internalize the heat. The evidence is everywhere: in the sunny colors of the flora, in the sweaty, half dressed bodies of bicyclists making their way through concrete jungle, in the rotund tomatoes and fleshy peaches at market. Despite (or maybe because?) of the sweat and the haze, something about this month seems so…well, sexy. 

It is the time of year when I most enjoy listening to this and this. 

While reading this.

And wearing a dress made of this.

It’s the time of year when I walk here.

The perfect time of year to eat and drink sweet, delightfully pink watermelon.

Like this gentleman.

And a great time to utilize a bounty of eggplant.

The eggplant that is proliferating the markets right now was calling my name a couple of weeks ago. So purple, so perfect looking, I wanted to buy all of it. What to do with a bounty of eggplant? Roasting, sure. Parmesan, or breaded, eh (too pedestrian).

Baba ganoush? Yes! I had never made baba before. The problem with making baba is many whole eggplants do not yield a lot of final product. I grilled and roasted 15 pounds of eggplant and only got a few quarts of baba ganoush out of it. Despite the inefficiency, that stuff is goooood. Made with the same ingredients that are used to make hummus – except the beans – baba ganoush is a refreshing treat with lots of taste and nutrients (most notably, fiber).

It’s also a typical Lebanese and Egyptian dish that has made its way into American tastes in the past decade or so. Hmm. A middle eastern dish that conjures up images of an Egyptian vacation pre-revolution? Definitely sexy.

On an American note: Did you know Thomas Jefferson introduced eggplant to the U.S.? Neither did I.

What you need:

2 lbs of eggplant (at least)

Salt

Olive oil

Tahini (sesame paste) about 2 tbs.

Cumin, about 1.5 tbs

Garlic, chopped fine (how many cloves is up to you and your taste)

Juice from a few lemons (I like lots of lemon)

Half bunch of parsley, chopped fine

Olives (optional).

What to do:

Split the eggplant lengthwise and score. (Make little diagonal incisions so it can cook evenly and quickly).

Drizzle with olive oil and grill over med-high heat for a few minutes, until skin turns slightly brown and the eggplant meat starts to blacken along the score lines.

Take off the grill, place in bowl, and toss with salt and more olive oil. This vegetable loves oil, so don’t be afraid of using it liberally. Place the eggplant, skin up (this will promote even cooking), into a shallow pan, and put into a preheated oven set at 350 degrees.

The eggplant may take a while to roast –  you know it’s done when the skin begins to deflate a little, and when you press it with your hand and it gives readily. If the skin still has whitish looking parts, it’s not ready.

When you take the eggplant from the oven, let cool. Then hold at one end and peel the skin in one fell swoop, or if you’re having some difficulty, use a spoon to scrape the “meat” from the skin; put meat into a bowl.

Add remaining ingredients, stir, and use a fork to mash the mixture until it forms a smooth consistency – or transfer in batches to your food processor and blend until creamy.

Serve with olives and your favorite pita.

Enjoy!

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Kickstarted

Well.

After lot of planning, researching, problem-solving, sweating, cooking, sampling, and eating, this business is growing from a tiny roadside table with a rickety chalkboard into a full fledged operation of Goodness. Despite the long days, the short bouts of sleep, and my continuously aching feet, I am feeling motivated, encouraged, and optimistic.

It’s hard to believe that a year ago, this was all just a tiny, peanut of an embryo. You can read about the impetus for Grace’s Goodness in my first ever blog post here. 

Anyway.

Good things are happening.

Good things that include a Kickstarter campaign launch. This launch is crucial to the future of the Goodness business: meeting my goal in the next 44 days will enable the business to get the truck on the streets, making good food more accessible to Atlantans and bolstering GG’s place in the burgeoning street food scene. Click the above link to watch the video by Ramsey Yount (and discover tasty rewards). It is people like you, with a genuine interest in local food and local business, that are shaping this endeavor and encouraging its future. I’m very grateful for you.

Good things are also happening in the form of dang delicious Pearson farm peach gazpacho.

Even babies dig it.

I’ve been enjoying peaches for the past month – a lot of times, I’m tossed one during the farmers market, and I eat it right on the spot, delighting in the inevitable dribbles of sticky nectar on my face and fingers.

You know there are 2,000 varieties of peaches? All with their own unique qualities. I had no idea something I’ve always considered simple – a southern, summer peach – could tell me so much.

From a recent email sent by John Short, of Pearson farm:

Semi-freestone GaLa peaches are yellow flesh, round with little suture and tip, good, bright color, high firmness (now soft!), good quality freestone. Origin: 1992, Calhoun, Louisiana Ag Experiment Station and USDA, Byron, GA. Named for the two states involved in the release. 

Freestone peaches are just what they sound like: peaches in which the meat falls away easy from the pit, or stone. Conversely, clingstone peaches are those in which the hard-headed meat clings to the pit. These are the sweetest kind of peach. I love them for their pretty spots of red and dark pink that shock the meat of the peach nearest to the pit.

I’m not usually a gazpacho lover, as the cold soup often reminds me of eating salsa with a spoon.  And who wants to do that? Instead, I’ve thought: cold peach soup…gazpacho…fresh peach and refreshing cucumbers…voila! A delectable gazpacho, waiting to happen.

After a little research and some experimenting in the back of the 5 Seasons Brewing kitchen, the peach-cucumber gazpacho turned out quite lovely. The combination of sweet peach with the cool cucumber, a bit of heat from cayenne, and a touch of salt make this slightly complex, earthy and refreshing. Goodness has been offering it at the farmers markets, and it has been selling like crazy.

Of course, you can make it at home, if you have the time.

Here’s what to do:

Buy a crate of fresh Pearson farm peaches. They’re available all over right now, and they’re way better than what you’d get at any store. Just get yourself to the nearest farmers market.

Take those peaches, and rinse them, rubbing the fuzz gently to remove any residues. Put a big pot of water to boil on the stove, and add the peaches. Let them sit in the boiling water for about 3 minutes. While this is happening, fill a large bowl with ice water. Use a slotted spoon to remove the peaches from the boil, and plunge them in the ice water. You are blanching the peaches – this makes it super easy to remove the skins.

De-skinned peaches: still pretty.

Next, slide of the skins with your fingers. Just give the peach a little pressure near the top, and give a little pull – the skin will come right off. Reach into the peach and grab the pit and dispose of it. Do this until all peaches are pitted and skinned.

Now, peel and de-seed a handful of cucumbers. The number of cukes you use determines the presence of cucumber taste in the gazpacho: use more if you really want to taste them, as they are much more mild than the peaches. I like to peel a few extra to add along the way while I’m tasting. Cut the cukes into medium slices and add to the peaches; transfer this, in small batches, to a food processor.

Chop one bunch of fresh cilantro; squeeze fresh lemon over the herb.

Add this to the processor, in addition to:

1/4 of a bulb of garlic, 5 tablespoons of sea salt, 1/4 c. champage or white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon of your favorite olive oil, a few shakes of cayenne pepper, and a few shakes of cumin.  Taste along the way, adjust seasonings to your liking.

After mixture has been processed and is smooth, put the soup in a sieve placed over a pot to refine the soup and make it extra silky. Garnish with a cucumber relish – cukes, lemon, garlic, parsley, olive oil is a good start. Embellish from there according to your preferences (add onion, cilantro, chives)…

Enjoy!

Hope to see you all at a farmers market sometime soon.

A bride, a groom, a wedding worthy chicken salad

I first met Sam and Shannon a few years ago, when I tagged along with Daniel – before we were actually dating – to a barbecue at their house. Shannon was an adorable host, befriending me immediately and offering cocktails on the spot in between singing along to whatever music happened to be playing. Sam sported an outrageously long beard and greeted me with a warm southern drawl.

Someone eventually produced a beer funnel, and the night got hilarious from there. I felt totally at ease – and entertained  – by these genuine, welcoming people.

Fast forward a year and a half, and I’m catering their wedding.

I  couldn’t have been more excited, and Sam and Shannon were great to work with: I dreamed up a menu in February, and Shannon approved of it with lots of “oh my GAWD that is going to be just WONDERFUL’s!”

I was nervous: 110 people! I usually make food in mason jars. I need employees! I need more kitchen space! I need a plan! What if I burn something? What if someone chokes on a bone while eating the chicken?

The wedding was this past Saturday.

Sam and Shannon were totally at ease, and absolutely in love.

The food went off without a hitch.

I was delighted and honored to be a part of Sam and Shannon’s big day.

The menu:

Hand pulled chicken with whole grain mustard bbq, chipotle vinegar bbq, Breadwinner buns

Freshly herbed chicken salad with dijon and white wine

Shells and extra sharp cheese with bechamel sauce

Local strawberry and spinach salad with balsamic vinagrette

Pickled okra

Favors of pimento cheese and black eyed pea hummus

The chicken salad was something that was made up on the spot, and I was surprised how many compliments it received.  The day before the wedding, my friend Cristina helped chop an assortment of herbs, and my mom eyeballed the amount of dijon mustard the chicken would need, while I tossed in a touch of white wine, mayo, onion and celery.  We tasted the concoction and added fresh lemon juice, sea salt, cracked pepper, and more mustard until we got it perfect. The mustard adds a dimension to the salad that is lacking in the traditional mayo-drenched varieties. An abundance of fresh herbs brought out a light, green flavor that my mom describes as ” very spring-y.”

Wedding worthy chicken salad

1 whole Springer Mt. farms chicken

1/4 onion

1-2 stalks celery

Dijon mustard

2-3 lemons

Dry white wine

Organic mayo (just a tad)

A big bunch of fresh herbs (I used rosemary, oregano, thyme and parsley)

Fresh radish

Roast your chicken. Allow it to cool, then pull all chicken off the bone, removing skin. (Using white and dark meat gives much more flavor).  Chop the onion and celery; add to chicken while blending in mayo – not a lot, about 1/2 a cup – and a few tablespoons of mustard. Pour in a dash of wine while continuing to blend. Finely chop herbs and add to mixture – don’t be afraid, add lots (fresh herbs would make cardboard taste good). Stir while adding the juice of 1 or 2 lemons. Sprinkle judiciously with sea salt and cracked pepper. Taste for balance and add lemon juice, wine, and mustard as needed.  Refrigerate over night to allow the flavors to marry; add extra lemon juice before serving. Slice radishes and use as garnish.

Congratulations, Sam and Shannon. I know the future has lots of exciting things in store for y’all.

Oops…you were promised a recipe for spring pea salad and lemongrass cream! That will come next.

All photos courtesy of the talented (and handsome) Daniel Stabler. 

What can we do?

Photo by Dusty Compton, AP/ The Tuscaloosa News

There are currently a plentitude of articles describing the aftermath of hell-bent tornadoes. After so many ravaged the south last week, I read several to figure out how Grace’s Goodness could contribute help.

I came across a particularly poignant piece of news that had tears threatening my eyes while reading about people in the embryonic stages of helping rebuild homes, schools, neighborhoods, and entire communities.

Photo courtesy of Getty images

From a New York Times article entitled, In Tornado Zone, Many Ask, ‘How can we help?‘:

Chris and Rachel Stephens, a couple in their 20s whose home was spared, cooked a batch of apple pancakes and headed to a heavily damaged Tuscaloosa neighborhood. They hung a sign — “Free hope pancakes for all!” — figuring a little comfort food might take people’s minds off the emotional toll.

In a time of loss and panic, a couple remembers that tornado victims need more than the basics. They need to be loved, and they need to be comforted.

Photo by Erik S. Lesser

How better to comfort each other than with thoughtful food?

When disaster strikes, we find ourselves scrambling to meet basic needs:  clothing, toiletries, shelter, food, water. When I picture having most of my personal items destroyed, and living in someone else’s space temporarily, borrowing clothes and transportation and relying on other people for food and water, I picture myself wading through various states of shock and disbelief and anxiety.

Forget about farmers markets and backyard herbs and meals from scratch. Get used to canned goods, dried foods, bottles of water and whatever else has been graciously donated from the depths of someone else’s pantry. Right?

I’m sure we can do more.

If you’re not already familiar, Greg Brown of Greenleaf Farms has had quite a year: a heart condition deterred him from tending his land this past winter. Admirable local networks (including Crop Mob Atlanta and Georgia Organics) worked to raise money to help defray his medical costs and enable him to keep his farm in good working order.

Exactly one week ago, I was delighted to see Greg and his wife, Maeda, at Decatur farmers market, their booth boasting a load of gorgeous produce and flowers. With easy going, sincere and friendly demeanors,  the Browns worked the market as if  the past few months had consisted of a straight, paved road instead of one riddled with precarious potholes.

Greg and his Greenleaf Farms bounty

I traded them a jar of cheese for some gorgeous produce – chard, carrots and a giant beet that Maeda promised me would not be woody. Greg explained: beets with hard, thick stems in the middle will have a woody texture and less taste. The beets without such stems are delicious despite their mammoth size.

The market was suprisingly busy for a day when the clouds were especially ominous and the wind was incredibly strong.  Stormy skies loomed above vendors as we packed up and began to digest the severity of weather reports for the night.

Fortunately for Atlanta, the metro area was spared the havoc of the worst tornadoes to hit in 100 years.

Unfortunately for the Browns, their greenhouse was not spared. The tornado decimated it.

How can we help local, sustainable role models in times of need?

How can we help people in north Georgia, in Alabama, and in other hard-hit areas of tornado tragedy?

Grace’s Goodness will be donating one dollar of every jar sold in May to the Browns. We also will be accepting donations at the farmers market. These donations will go directly to a food fund. This summer, the fund will be utilized to turn local ingredients into homemade nutrition bars for tornado victims.

Click here to donate to Greenleaf Farms. Visit Greg and Maeda at Decatur farmers market today between 4 and 7pm and buy something delectable from these resilient people!

Due to a large catering event, GG will not appear at the Decatur farmers market today. Look for us on Saturday!

Next post: english pea soup with lemongrass cream

Making friends and making up recipes

I’ve been making a lot of pimento cheese lately.

Consequently, I’ve been jarring – and selling –  a lot of cheese, too.  And other treats.

Which means: I’ve been enjoying the farmers market more than ever.

The perfect weather helps, of course, but the best thing about working the market is the people.

I have a friendly regular customer who comes on Wednesdays in tow with her adorable dog. The dog’s name is Gracie (!!!)

Gracie the dog customer.

I also have a wonderful customer who I’ve developed a sort of friendship with. I genuinely feel happy to chat with her when she stops by the market. She tells me about her daughter, who is in high school. I tell her similar stories of myself and my friends, when we were the same, strange age.

Rocket, hiding in a tree.

On Saturdays, I get to observe the bashful, redheaded and completely adorable Rocket, son of Maria, of (delectable) Little Red Hen Bakeshop. Last Saturday, he was enamored with climbing a dogwood at the front of the market. He was not so enamored with my picture taking.

Customers of the day

I also get to meet new people all the time, people who often are first-timers to the market. You can tell they are new to the market by the look on their faces, and by the extra time they spend looking around at all their shopping options.

With happy, joyful seasons like this, there isn’t really time for the asparagus-scallion pie with homemade crust I’ve had my eye on making.

I’ve noticed I do more elaborate cooking not only when I’m not as busy, but when I’m not in such a happy place. Something about focusing on ingredients and measurements and temperatures distracts me from whatever wrench life has thrown into things.

Anyway.

There’s always time to throw something in the slow cooker. 7-hour cooked Riverview farm pork? When does that not sound good?

There wasn’t much to it: root vegetables, a little olive oil, sea salt, a dash of soy sauce and sherry wine, and a big hunk of meat, all sitting in a tightly enclosed Crock Pot taking up space on my kitchen counter. I turned it on “low’ for the first couple of hours, and then turned it up a notch for the rest of the time. Remember, you can always add cooking time to a piece of meat, but you can’t subtract it.

This was the start to a slow-cooked pork shoulder that provided several days’ worth of memorable meals.

Like a very tasty dinner of carnitas complimented by bok-choy radish slaw. (Also, homemade nachos, pork sandwiches, pork and cardamom roasted vegetables).

This “slaw” was born from leftover remnants of vegetables that desperately needed to be used so I wouldn’t, with guilt and sadness, toss a wrinkled, too soft turnip into the trash (I am not currently composting, but that’s another story).

It was the perfect pairing for the salty, juicy pork, and I actually ate more of it as a sort of side salad after I was done eating carnitas.  The bite of the turnip and the crisp little leaves of bok choy added a subtle complexity that the carnitas would have never had on their own.

I was very satisfied with this vegetable salvation, and realized that making up your own recipes, especially to help cut down on food waste, is quite fulfilling.

Anyone can do it – especially if you have a few pantry essentials on hand, like onion, garlic, olive oil and sea salt.

So, that’s it.

No recipe with written out directions today…just a loose description of the preparation and ingredients.

Get creative, and do what you think will taste good.

Taste along the way.

Enjoy.

Time flies when you’re…

Even the weeds look pretty.

April, you surprised the hell out of me. Maybe it was the unseasonably warm February and March, or the outrageous pollen count, or the shocking display of flower blossoms so early in the year. I just can’t believe you’re already here.

At Grace’s Goodness, it felt like I had been getting ready for the arrival of a long-lost friend: running around cleaning, cooking, getting really excited, wanting everything in your home to be perfect, when she shows up on your doorstep a few hours early, while you’re donning rubber gloves and scrubbing the bathtub.

Dogwood, Decatur farmers market

It’s that coming-alive-thing that gets me…it seems to effect so much more than plants and weather.

And it’s quite interesting to see your business begin to spring to life in rhythm with the season. I just wasn’t prepared to feel like everything was moving so fast.

Grace’s Goodness is now an LLC.

The Grace’s Goodness truck is finally on its way to wellness.

Barbara, patron saint of food truck safe houses, helps tear down old decal

Flowers and herbs have been planted.

Wedding menus have been planned.

Meetings have been attended.

Business plans have been reconstructed.

Picnics have been enjoyed.

Daniel "wrestles" the picnic blanket.

Recipes have been exchanged and perfected.

Franco, of Antico Mercante, gives me the secret to perfect insalata russa

The street food scene in Atlanta is gaining momentum, slowly but surely.

There is a street food summit tomorrow from 10am till noon at the Helene S. Mills Senior Center. Inquiring minds will have the opportunity to chat with Kwanza Hall himself about legalities related to street food in this city. After that food trucks will be lined up at the curb of the Sweet Auburn Market to provide the tastiest of lunches.

Grace’s Goodness will be (quietly) setting up shop next to the Trycyle Glass tent sale outside of Urban Cottage, in Virginia-Highlands.

On the menu: pecan butter-tupelo honey sammies, pimento cheese sammies, red beet hummus and crudite, spring pea, mint and goat cheese salads, and basil lemonade.

In another month, you’ll be able to experience this goodness out of the Goodness-mobile, legally.

Until then, GG will continue selling treats at the Decatur farmers market, anticipating the opening of other summer markets, and catering events and weddings.

Time to take off the rubber gloves and pour a few glasses of wine. There’s a lot of catching up to do.

Next recipe post: pork shoulder tacos with bok choy-radish slaw.

 

Swiss chard is for lovers

Yesterday, I was given the gift of a beautiful bunch of freshly picked swiss chard.

Today, I got up too early for someone who stayed up all night on Friday and had a brief 3 hour interlude of sleep on Saturday.  This is my definition of being busy.

I had a lot on my mind upon waking…and thought about going back to sleep to put my mind at ease. Instead, I channeled my energy on the fresh picked chard, and created an omelet for myself and the still-sleeping boyfriend.

Food therapy.

The omelet consisted of chard, a touch of butter, garlic, sea salt, and cheddar, with a bit of Riverview farms grass feed ground beef.

I had actually meant to use Riverview’s breakfast sausage, but in my sleepy state, didn’t discern the packaging difference until the beef was already sizzling on the stove. I threw in a bit of cayenne, garlic, cracked pepper, and hot sauce to make it less hamburger-like. Oops.

The chard is what made the omelet delicious. Upon sauteeing it, I couldn’t help lifting a leaf out here and there to taste. These leaves have such an earthy, sweet flavor, it seems more delicate and sophisticated than other varieties of greens.

And how could you argue with the sophistication of a vegetable that has vibrant veins of yellow and pink pulsing through its body?

As Daniel and I ate, we talked about the difference in taste profiles of freshly picked greens versus bagged versions. Greens picked out of the ground and in the same day thrown into a skillet have a taste like nothing else.

I suppose our endorphins light up during the instant gratification our bodies feel when ingesting chlorophyll.

My endorphins also light up cooking omelets, savoring a late breakfast, and chatting about the taste of lettuces over coffee and orange juice. For a few minutes, all the tribulations of work and life and family and friends melt away, and it’s just me, my swiss chard, and my love.

Happy Sunday.

Swiss chard and cheddar omelet – heartily serves 2

You need:

5 eggs

A bunch of fresh swiss chard

A couple of small pats of butter

One garlic glove

A few slices of your favorite cheddar

Sea salt and cracked pepper

Peel and chop garlic; melt the butter in a good sized skillet and allow garlic to turn a golden hue. Tear pieces of chard and add to pan. I usually do this in stages – there is so much chard in a bunch that you cannot add it all to the pan at once. Sautee chard, butter and garlic until aromatic and slightly wilted; transfer to a small bowl. Continue adding chard, butter and chopped garlic to pan and transferring until all chard is cooked. Then use the skillet to melt another pat of butter – put the oven on low or medium-low. Crack the eggs and whisk with salt and pepper; add to pan. Wait for eggs to begin bubbling just a touch, and the outer rim of the eggs to solidify. Add chard and small bits of cheddar. Observe a few minutes, and fold omelet when things look like they’re beginning to set. Allow omelet to continue cooking just a couple of minutes to marry the flavors and get the cheese to melt.

Serve with fresh fruit.

Enjoy!

Springing forward

Fresh earth smell, Japanese magnolias, bright yellow forsythia, bare legs, the return of freckles and longer days…who else is elated spring came early?

 

Fallen snow...flowers

Not only did spring come early this year, but Grace’s Goodness is building momentum…regular customers, new ingredients, new events.

The Georgia Organics conference this past weekend encouraged and motivated the business…I felt reinvigorated before I even got to Savannah, where the conference took place.

I-16 may be a bore, but who knew exit 98 held a pristinely clean, locally owned gas station that doubles as a petting zoo?

I spent 4 years at Georgia Southern, and not one time had I ever stopped there. Look what I was missing.

I paid a whole dollar to feed this specimen of a bird. And I did not even capture the llama with buck teeth, the skittish bison, or the baby goat getting head butted into the air. Never mind the barbed wire.

This was an interesting interlude from the monotonous, tractor-trailer dense strip of I-16 that stretches from Macon to Savannah. The gas station-“zoo” reminded me that supporting local businesses is an ongoing intention.

There are opportunities for you to support what my Decatur farmers market manager, Duane, likes to call the “loconomy,” at almost every turn. Such opportunities may not present themselves as blatantly as your closest shopping center, but they usually hold a lot more value and experience.

I thought about this frequently during my time at the conference, and it kept me feeling inspired.

I felt even more inspired after spending time with people like Lou Linzie of the East Lake Farmers market, Katie Hayes of East Atlanta Village farmers market, Greg Smith, Maggie Rentz, and Scott Smallwood of Atlanta Street Food Coalition, Mike Lorey of Folksy Brews, Michael Shoptaw of Tagyerit Farm and Darby Weaver and Elliot Smith of Sun Dog Farm.

These are passionate people who make the world we live in more closely resemble the world we dream about living in. They do this by working hard to lovingly produce food and to orchestrate farmers market experiences that make being a localvore in Atlanta a pleasure. I feel excited to work in tandem with these kinds of folks, and can’t wait to see what this year has in store for all of us.

Also, I moved. Out of Reynoldstown and into Poncey-Highlands.

Goodbye, shotgun shack. Goodbye, kitchen with no air conditioning, no dishwasher and occasional rats. Goodbye, creaky 100 year old floors that blow gusts of wind into the house via large holes. Goodbye, noisy Stein Steel yard. Goodbye, Shroud of Tourin-like sheets hanging over boards nailed into side of house, where old bearded landlord never finished the “bay window” I was promised.

Instead, I am ringing in the new spring and the move into a new home with seasonal delights from places like the Farm Mobile.

Last week, the farmers market-on-wheels boasted Riverview Farms radishes in a kaleidoscope of colors, and hakeuri  turnips, and tons of kale and other leafy greens, in addition to their grass fed beef and heritage pork.

Have you ever eaten a hakeuri turnip? Even eaten raw, with no seasoning, these little white roots are juicer and sweeter than anything else of the same color that comes from the ground.

Elliot and Darby of Sun Dog Farm talked with me about this during the conference’s Farmer’s Feast , and I believe Elliot said something about hakeuris tasting like little pieces of gold. This was after a few glasses of Cabernet, so maybe gold wasn’t the exact metaphor he used, but I think it fits. Darby mentioned they don’t have the bite that turnips usually do.

Roasted with a touch of olive oil, lemon, balsamic and sea salt, these pieces of white “gold” turn silken and surprisingly tender.

Daniel and I ate them last week roasted with brussels sprouts and radish, as an accompaniment to slow simmered lentils and crusty baguette. “If my stomach had a mouth, it would be smiling right now,” Daniel told me in between bites. I agreed. *

As we spring forward into this new season of warmth and growth, and we all become busy with our gardens, farms, jobs, and passions, I look forward to savoring the local flavors of the spring and summer. When blueberry or tomato juice dribbles down my chin, I will remind myself that these flavors are the result of labors of love, and that I am happily supporting my loconomy.

Oven roasted brussels sprouts, radish, and white gold

You need:

A few cups of brussels sprouts, cut into quarters

1 bunch of radishes

1 bunch of hakeuri turnips

A few squeezes of lemon juice

Your favorite olive oil

Dashes of sea salt and cracked pepper

A few dribbles of balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash all veggies. Cut radishes and turnips into halves and cut off greenery from tops. In a small bowl, combine all other ingredients, tasting as you mix them together. Add salt or lemon juice as needed to meet your taste’s needs. Baste veggies with the oil mixture until all are covered lightly, but not saturated, then put in a roasting pan. Roast for about 30 minutes, until the brussels sprouts are browned on the outside. Serve with crusty bread as a light meal, or as a delectable side.

Enjoy.

* I loved this meal so much that photographing it in the moment slipped my mind, so my apologies for the lack of food photos. This is quite a beautiful, colorful dish.

A biscuit recipe for the mechanic chef

The Exxon at the corner of Moreland and Ponce is a scrappy kind of place. It is not the kind of environment I would expect the boss to bring his workers homemade cordon bleu. In fact, I’m not sure what kind of place I would expect the boss to bring his workers such treats, but this shop is that kind of place, I learned while getting my oil changed.

Tom sits behind a counter, typing something on the computer and chatting with a pleasant, older, bespectacled woman. As I enter the room, I smile at them, hinting at the need to interrupt their conversation. Soon, after giving Tom the details on my car, I’m over-sharing: would you take a look  sometime at the 1988 Chevrolet box truck I’ve purchased (to start a food truck business)? He is enthusiastic, and genuinely interested, so we start talking about food, and about how the cordon bleu he brought for his workers that day was gone in an instant. I ask if he likes pimento cheese. He says no – he also does not care for grits. This is not so shocking when he explains that he’s from New England.

The next thing I know, Mattie, the lady Tom had been chatting with, pipes in: “you don’t like grits?! I could eat grits for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” And so, we bond over the deeply southern specialties that include grits: shrimp with garlic and tomato grits; blackened fish with cheese grits; grits pie. The waiting room at this mechanic shop was turning into a beauty parlor, with all the chatter going on. Tom tells me he has spent months perfecting his peanut-butter fudge, and years trying to balance out the flavors in his spaghetti sauce.

We also talk biscuits: he appreciates a great biscuit, but hasn’t yet capitalized on making a good one himself. I ask what kind of biscuit he prefers (there are quite a variety of biscuit types for people to fuss over – dense, flaky, fluffy, crusty, brown, golden, lard-based, cream-based) and he says it depends on what he’s eating with them. After all, a dense biscuit is crucial for mopping up something hearty, like rich, thick gravy. This is exactly what I picture Tom eating for breakfast before heading to the shop. Maybe he eats scrambled tofu, or a dainty fruit parfait, but I can’t picture that as easily.

The following recipe was given to me in a homemade cookbook I begged my mom to put together while I was in college, when I first started really cooking. I wanted her coveted classics: delectable spaghetti sauce, hearty, tomato-rich chili, the fluffiest biscuits, the creamiest mashed potatoes.  She has always quietly laughed at my requests, saying “I don’t really follow a recipe, you know.” So the recipes she wrote down for me are mostly sketchy outlines with inexact measurements. Fortunately, her biscuit recipe is not one of those.

These are not the biscuits she made us growing up, of course, because there’s no recipe for those. Instead, this  recipe was borrowed from our neighbors in Thomasville, Georgia, who used to run a bed and breakfast. The last I remember, the 80-year-old husband, Ed, would get up early on weekend mornings to make these biscuits for overnight guests. I’m thinking of getting up early on Sundays to make them for the upcoming Grant Park farmers market this summer.

Cream biscuits

You need:

2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 tbs baking powder

2 tsp sugar

1 1/2 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425. Combine flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in mixing bowl. Stir dry ingredients with a fork to blend and lighten. Slowly add 1 cup of the cream to the mixture, stirring constantly. Gather the dough until it sticks together. Add a little more cream if too dry. Knead for one minute. Pat dough onto floured surface until about 1/2 inch thick.

Cut into biscuits with something round – I use the lid of a Mason jar – and drizzle melted butter over them.

Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet. Or, if your baking sheet is soaking from the night before (like mine was), use a round pan and nestle the biscuits close to one another. They will come out just fine. On this batch, I added some fresh sprigs of rosemary to the tops.

Bake about 15 minutes or until slightly browned. To make drop biscuits, just make your dough a little wetter and drop by spoonfuls. (I like drop biscuits, because of the added texture you get on the top of the biscuit).

I prefer my biscuits with a good helping of honey for breakfast…and with soup for lunch…and with anything at all for dinner.

*Variations:

Shred your favorite cheddar cheese and break off some fresh leaves off rosemary; blend into your dough for an extra savory biscuit.

Grate fresh cinnamon and mix with a few spoonfuls of sugar. Mix into dough. Top biscuits with drizzles of butter and more spoonfuls of the cinnamon-sugar mixture before putting in oven.

Dig in, Tom.

Feeling the warmth of winter

Six days ago, as the sun teased us with flirtations of warmth and I basked in the all-too-fleeting moments of a splendid Saturday outside, I felt perfectly healthy and happy. How quickly things change.

My dear Kiana took this - winter looking its best. She lives in Brooklyn. I need to visit.

Days later, winter’s dismal gray demeanor reminds us it’ll be around a while longer. Gone with the warm sun rays went my healthy lungs and robust immune system. What started as a cold has turned into a rather frustrating bout of bronchitis, rendering me useless in the kitchen. Instead, I’m moving from bed to couch, consuming large quantities of echinacea tea, grapefruit juice and sopa de pollo.

I’ve had plenty of time to make one of my “things done” lists. Lists tend to make me feel better: they cause me to step back and view things more objectively. They also reinstate my sometimes waning sense of purpose.

Things that were done this week:

Made 10 batches of vegan curried lentil soup. Perfected cumin-carrot raita for Indian chicken salad. Roasted the most lovely Springer Mountain farms chicken. Enjoyed snacking on the crispy, salty, crunchily perfect skin from said roasted chicken. Worked some 16 hour days. Woke up early. Sold out at Farmers market in under an hour (I clearly could have prepared much more food). Delivered baskets filled with jars of goodness to an array of folks. Practiced yoga. Missed my friends on vacation. Fantasized about a tropical vacation. Consumed the maximum recommended daily amount of Theraflu. Drank a half-gallon of orange juice. Had business meetings. Fretted over and edited business plan. Got lost on 285 for 2 hours, with Laura at the wheel of her aunt’s pristine Jaguar, trying to locate the ice cream truck for purchase. Found the truck, bought it, and discovered the headlights are out. Moved some money. Slept fitfully. Cut off my hair. Saw the Smith Westerns at the Drunken Unicorn. Ran into a friend from out of town. Had a reunion with a friend from middle school. Rubbed elbows at Church with the Lady Rogue Business Network. Made a new friend. Postponed some meetings. Stayed in bed. Researched recipes. Missed my first Wednesday Decatur Farmers market. Felt distressed. Felt hopeful.

A week ago, I was huddled over a Bon Appetite curried lentil soup recipe I had scrawled on the back of a receipt for Burt’s Bees chapstick, trying to imagine how much flavor I would lose by omitting butter from the recipe. I went with my gut and eliminated all butter. The soup ended up being earthy, slightly spicy, with a pleasant kick from the addition of some fresh ginger  – it provided a warmth I’m ready to feel again.

Photo by Elinor Carruci for Bon Appetite

 

It is a warmth you only feel in winter after enjoying a particularly savory, spice-laden meal: as it thaws out your insides, a coziness radiates from the center of your chest. As soon as I kick the unpleasant bout of bronchitis I’ve developed to the curb, I will make it once more.

In the meantime, I’m reminded that the nasty days of wintry mixes and personal maladies are broken up by surprises, adventures, and connections – and that it is this juxtaposition that makes you come alive, and feel warm.

Vegan curried lentil soup, adapted from Bon Appetite

You need:

3 tbs olive oil

1 med onion, chopped

2 med carrots, chopped

1 med piece of fresh ginger, shaved

2 garlic cloves, chopped and divided evenly

Curry powder (several tbs)

1 cup green lentils

4 1/2 cups water, divided

1 16 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 tbs fresh lemon juice

2 green onions

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a big pot over medium heat. Add onion and carrot; add some salt and pepper. Cook until onion is no longer opaque – about 4 minutes.  Add half of chopped garlic; stir until vegetables are soft but tender.  Add 2 tablespoons curry powder, and stir until you notice the unique scent of the curry wafting in your kitchen – only a minute or so.  Add lentils and 4 cups water; sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Increase heat, bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Taste along the way – season with curry powder, salt and pepper, and ginger along the way as you see fit. While lentils are simmering, throw chickpeas, lemon juice, 1/4 cup water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and the rest of the garlic in a food processor. (This is an easy way to make hummus. If you want, double the about of chickpeas, juice, water and olive oil, and save half the mixture for a creamy hummus dip you can throw in the fridge for lunch the next day). After you puree the mixture, add slowly to the simmering lentils. Continue cooking, tasting and seasoning as needed for another 10 minutes or so. Ladle soup into bowls; garnish with slivers of green onion and a lemon wedge. Get warm!