Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving in my home, from many hands...

 I make my pots for good food to be shared with good people, so it's easy to understand why Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year. This year did not disappoint, with many hands (and chairs, and ovens) coming together to create a delicious meal, and many people coming together as new and old friends to create a beautiful day. I admit I had a few fleeting doubts, as I was also spending Thanksgiving week glazing for a kiln that I fired on Wednesday. But thanks to some great make-ahead tips I found on, and the many good hands and good hearts of all who came to sit at the table, it was just all good!

Special props go to Michael & Jan, for all the last minute borrowed ingredients, plastic wrap, chairs, napkins, and oven space - not to mention the squash dish, the pie, the cranberries, and the appetizer (the very model of good neighbors)! And to house-mate Eric for jumping in to help with the prep all week: making his first pie, brining the turkey, making the gravy, cutting, chopping,stirring, and cleaning and more, which made Thanksgiving Day itself so very relaxing. And to Patricia for the incredible Apple Pie (her grandmother's recipe), and Michael & Julie for the Green Beans, the Salad, and an incredible Chocolate-Garbanzo (gluten free) cake. And to Kristin for fabulous Brussel Sprouts, for bringing her wonderful son, and their own chairs, and for taking gorgeous pictures! Recipes will follow, but here are some images from the day. The first is from my phone, and the rest (that look so very good!) are from the skilled eye of Kristin Fellows (who also makes a mean Brussel Sprout dish!).

Early afternoon Apps, clockwise from bottom left corner:
Coconut Shrimp on Wonton with Roots' Lima Bean Hummus,
Turkey Liver Pate, Challah Toasts (and olives, carrots, & cornichons).  
Lace-imprinted porcelain ornaments for each guest. 
It was a visual feast as well, with the colors of the food and the pottery dancing
around the beautiful table runner by artist Susan Webb Lee.
Eric did a masterful job on the carving. 
I knew this platter would be perfect for serving our Hickory Nut Gap Farm turkey. 
Two of my own offerings in the back in pieces from my 'signature servers' series:
 mashed sweet potatoes and the Chestnut/Apple/Leek dressing, done with Challah to celebrate
Hannukah. Green Beans in the foreground from Michael & Julie.

I love mixing up plates and bowls and cups, which somehow all seem to come
together as one design when the table is set. 

Thank goodness the sweet potato rolls match the table runner! Julie & Michael
brought their vibrant salad in a beautiful bowl by Angelique Tassistro, which seems to
find a complimentary pattern in the table runner as well.

From the bottom up: my Pomegranite-Citrus-Walnut salad, Kristin's Brussel Sprouts
 (in a bowl of mine that she bought several years ago), and an improvised gravy teapot (by Steve Prieto) 

Michael, who really IS Santa Claus, brings over the sides that he and Jan
graciously warmed up in their oven across the street.
By the time the candles burned down for the second night of Hannukah, we were ready for pie.
Patricia's incredible Apple Pie, and Pumpkin Pie by Eric - his first pie and a winner!
Jan's Mincemeat Pie - no doubt this is hand-made!  
Many times, when I'm at the wheel making pottery, I'm thinking of moments just
like this when my pots are filled with exquisite food at a table filled with good friends.
tucking into a true bounty of nourishment and friendship.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Gumbo Delight

No recipe here, just a picture of some of the most fantastic Chicken/Andouille Gumbo that I received in trade for a bowl. You can read about the whole story at my Crazy Green Studios blog. The bowl is made by me, and in this case it may not be that the homemade tasted better in handmade, but that the handmade was worthy of the homemade! Thanks, Emile!!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Book Club Empanadas

A sure sign that you have a food-related blog (even if you're less than regular about your posting), is that you chronicle meals and meal-making, in the event that it turns out to be blog-worthy. I believe the empanadas that I made today for my book club are indeed blog worthy.

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Book Club Empanadas, on one of my favorite plates by DC potter Jill Hinckley.

That being said ... I've been so good about transcribing amounts and directions for our guest blog series, I bet you thought it would translate into my own posts. Think again.

The evolution of the Book Club Empanada:

Time: not a lot of time for prep or even shopping (a couple of hours in the morning, then home in time to toss something in the oven), so a look to the larder and off we go:

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this was the recipe I wrote .. I'll expand on it below.
Ingredients (what I had on hand):

Leftover beef/sausage marinara that the roommate made for dinner last night
sweet potatoes
chick peas
spicy olive mix
pecorino romano cheese
pizza dough
various curry seasonings

Pizza dough would not be my first choice for an empanada shell, as after I thawed it, it did a very nice rise as it wants to do, but for my empanadas I needed it to be beaten into submission to make it thin enough, which will result in a slightly tougher dough when cooked. But if you get it thin enough, it's still quite tasty. You can try this empanada dough recipe if you want (I have a similar with a mix of whole wheat and unbleached flours).

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Note to self: the SMALLER the number, the WIDER the gap, not the other way as you
might have thought when you tried to squeeze the very yeasty dough through a wafer thin space!

To aid me in thinning out the dough, I called upon my trusty pasta machine, and added a mix of whole wheat flour and corn meal when kneading it and folding it between presses (for you pasta machine enthusiasts: several passes at #1, then once through #2, then finish rolling it out with a rolling pin).

The FIlling:

Last night my roommate made a wonderful meat marinara for some pasta, nicely simmered and with a slight chipotle kick. Knowing I had sweet potatoes and chick peas on hand, that combo came first to mind. Finding the pizza dough settled me onto the empanadas, although, wouldn't that have made an equally interesting pizza?

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This smelled and tasted incredible. Definitely a base for a good chili.

Since everything was already cooked/leftover/canned, a stovetop simmer was in order to try and meld some flavors. So everything went into a pot, along with some cumin, curry powder, turmeric, and ... well I'm not entirely sure, but I think there was something else. :) The flavors were coming together nicely, and I decided a nice grate of pecorino romano on top of the filling before closing the empanada would add the extra 'something' needed.

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bowl by Asheville potter Paul Frehe, for Empty Bowls. Perfect size for empanadas!

While the flavors on the stove were mingling, I set to pounding out the dough. Once through the pasta machine and evened out under a rolling pin, it was time to cut my rounds. I knew the size I wanted, so I found a bowl that fit the bill and cut up my rounds.

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Resist the urge to over-fill your empanadas!

Approximately 3 TBSP of the filling went into the center of each round, which had an egg wash lightly brushed around the edges. Fold over the top of the round, and compress the edges to seal, then follow with your favorite pie crust pinching technique (don't be jealous of my skills! ;)

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At this point, the empanadas can be frozen for later use.

So that was my morning, but book club wasn't coming till 4pm. So I packed the empanadas (after making some light slits across the tops) in a bin, making sure to keep them separate and between layers of parchment paper, so I might put them in the freezer. As I turned to grab the cover of the freezer bin, I saw the unused pecorino romano. Plan B: before putting them in the oven, egg wash the empanadas and grate the cheese on top. Onward...

I got home at 3:30, turned the oven to 400 to preheat while I put the empanadas on a parchment-lined baking sheet, egg-washed them and grated the pecorino on top of each. They baked about 18-20 minutes. The tops just started to brown, and the bottoms were nicely golden. They rested on a baking rack while I greeted my guests.

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Book Club Empanadas

We had a lightly gingered iced-yerba mate with almond milk, and I had some lovely candied ginger and a bar of chocolate from French Broad Chocolates for a sweet follow up. But I'm sure you spy a bit more in the top left corner...

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a shmata of sweets

The lovely and talented Deanna brought a generous hunk of her fresh berry pie (the berries, we learned, were hand picked by herself on a mountain hike) that was divine. The equally lovely and talented Lisa brought an array of offerings from City Bakery that satisfied just about every sweet tooth craving. 

We learned early in our book club that it took all of three minutes to determine how far we each had read since our last meeting, and another three minutes to discuss the common areas of the book. So it's always been more about the getting together, which in addition to the reading is why I look forward to it every time. Reading is fundamental ... to good friends and good eating at book club!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer Abundance with Rosetta: Basil Slaw and Summer Ratatouille-ish

Ah, the best laid plans ... our seasonal guest series has been subjected to schedule anomalies, but we're rewarded on the re-start by a most lovely day with the most lovely Rosetta!

Rosetta, with a bounty of the season

A little about our guest chef o' the day: Rosetta is the chief-everything (with her husband Jack, of Jack's Boxes) of Starshine Industries, and to paraphrase her own words, she 'helps guide a restaurant to greatness, manifests retail health food deliciousness, raises food from the magic of the earth, and children from her own heart and spirit, and she knits together people to create beautiful nets to catch a functional future." 

The restaurant is Rosetta's Kitchen, Asheville's Whole-Food Kitchen-Cafe, where she's been 'feeding the family right' since 2002, serving the extended family, friends, and wander-throughers creative vegetarian and vegan soul foods. And that's not all by a long-shot. She has (also paraphrasing her own words) "swum in the Ganges, and didn't die...bore four children at home (two unassisted), drove all the way from Nicaragua to Asheville alone with four kids, have managed to keep the doors of a small business open post-2008 crash, scored the best husband on the planet, and can get birds to fly our of a tree to land on me". 

And in addition to Rosetta's Kitchen, she has opened a second location, Rosetta's Kitchenette, at UNC Asheville, has launched Starshine Foods, instituted the "Everyone Eats" Plate, sat on the board of the Asheville-Buncombe Food Policy Council, and is on the organizing board for the creation of Saut√©  A Community Cafe. And there's more - we could (and someone should) write a book on just what her life has been thus far, but I'm happier to be in a living chapter with her in the here and now, and share just a little of the love that flows from her as naturally as the sun rises each morning.

Now to our day... First I had to pack up the pots we would use. I knew we'd have a variety of seasonal colors, so I chose pieces from my "starry night" line of glazes to showcase them in their natural glory:

Rich, deep colors offer a much better canvas for
beautiful foods than anemic 'restaurant white'!

Rosetta's only stipulation on our day was that the kids be able to come, and with her beautiful children (and sometimes some extras!) that's always a bonus. So we packed into her car and headed out on our adventure!

loaded up and ready to go!

... stopping briefly to help a box turtle on its own journey...

this lucky guy would soon be re-located to a blueberry patch

With turtle in tow, we were off to the farmstand at Flying Cloud Farm, managed by Annie & Isaiah Perkinson. Rosetta and Annie first met when both were students at Warren Wilson College, where they started the campus vegetable co-op that continues today. Both continue to feed the masses individually too - Flying Cloud Farm, located in Fairview, NC, produces fruits, vegetables, and flowers for local markets and sells directly via their CSA, local tailgates, and at their self-serve roadside stand.

perusing the many offerings

our basket of farm goodness

Basket and water bottles filled, the day was too gorgeous to skip the chance to stop off for a quick swim and admire the creative diving styles of the kids. Then it was off to the kitchen to cook!

First the Ratatouille. The 'ish' is added because it's a variation (glad I'm not the only one who loves those!), and because, as Rosetta points out, "everything I know about Ratatouille I learned from a cartoon rat." Recommendation enough for me to put it on the rental list! But also a good reminder to let recipes be guides and inspirations (ok, maybe not all baking recipes...), and when the bounty of the season is all around, don't let them be restrictions. I was also very happy to find that, like me, Rosetta's recipes are filled with 'a dash', 'a shake', 'a handful' and other measurements that may make some cooks nervous, but we hope you will embrace it.

Rosetta's Roasted Summer Ratatouille-ish

3 young, Asian eggplants, cubed
3 yellow squash, cubed
Olive Oil
Dried thyme leaves
1 onion, diced
2 pints cherry tomatoes, whole
2 handfuls purple beans, cut into 1” pieces
1 head garlic, cut into large chunks
1 mild jalapeno*, small dice
Salt/Pepper to taste
Small bunch of parsley, chopped
Handful fresh basil leaves, chopped

A note on the size of the cuts: the goal is to have a nice forkful, so not too small.

*all the veg came from Flying Cloud Farm, but for the jalapeno, which came via Rosetta's sister Juniper Odell who grew it at the Wezeltown Terraced Gardens.

Heat oven to 450.

Wash the tomatoes, then toss them into a heavy pan. Toss with olive oil, pepper, and dry thyme. Roast in the oven until they’re fragrant and nicely roasted.

Rosetta's favorite roasting pan, ready to Ratatouille!

As  you prepare each of the rest of the vegetables, toss them into a large bowl (all but the basil and parsley). Toss with olive oil and salt, then transfer to a heavy pan and roast until the veg has roasted edges (do not stir), and eggplant is tender.

Remove from the oven, add tomatoes, parsley, and basil and toss. Taste for seasoning and salt as needed.

free-range onlooker and happy recipient of scraps

Basil-Inspired Slaw

While the vegetables were roasting, Rosetta moved on to the slaw, which was created as a vehicle for the basil.

Rosetta and the main players for the Slaw
(although we opted for coconut oil over the olive oil,
as noted below)

2 small heads of cabbage, thinly sliced*
3 fat and short carrots, grated
Handful of basil, julienned, then cross cut roughly
2 TBSP Coconut oil
2 TBSP Apple Cider Vinegar
1 TBSP honey
Grated garlic
1 TSP salt
Dash of cayenne pepper
Shot of Cholula hot sauce
Salt to taste

Rosetta slices the cabbage on a
handmade mandolin she bought at the
market place in Masaya, Nicaragua

As you prepare each vegetable, put them in a bowl large enough to hold it all. Add the dressing ingredients on top, and mix thoroughly.

A perfect summer meal!

Our meal was complimented by another offering from Rosetta's sister Juniper (in the bowl on the left, and at the front of the plate): Pickled Japanese Salad Turnips, also from Wezeltown Terraced Gardens. The turnips had stayed too long in the ground, and had become spicy, very much like daikon, and pickled with ginger they were the perfect extra bite!

Bonus offering for those who have read through to the finish:

Rosetta's Summer Cocktail

Ginger, Basil, Apple Cider Vinegar, Water, Stevia & Whiskey, on ice.

I didn't take measurements here, you'll just have to try it yourself!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Homemade Guest Series: Spring Brunch, pt. 2

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Series Guest Matt Clark (l) with his partner Stephen Der Margosian
enjoying his delicious Spring Brunch on the patio at Bittersweet Cottage.

Part 2 of our first Guest Series takes us to Bittersweet Cottage & Suite, where co-owner Matt Clark is whipping up a delicious Spring Brunch featuring the local and seasonal goodies we picked up at the Tailgate Market in Part 1.

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Bittersweet Cottage, a beautiful getaway just minutes from downtown Asheville.

A reminder of what we found at the Tailgate Market:

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Fresh ramps, kale, quali eggs, lamb sausage, a fine baguette, 
sunflower sprouts and Matt's homemade pickled beets & onions.

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Matt at work in his uniquely spaced, yet highly functional kitchen.

Matt wanted to keep the preparation simple to let the flavors of these fresh, local ingredients be the star attraction. And these recipes can work throughout the year as other varieties of greens come into season. If you can't find quail eggs, you can use chicken eggs (even better if from your own chickens or from a local farmer!). And the same goes for the lamb sausage - this is a recipe that can have many variations.

Our Menu:
Ramp Pesto on Toasted Baguette
Lamb Sausage with Kale, Ramps, & Quail Eggs
Pickled Beets with Sunflower Sprouts
Asheville Brewing Company Shiva Ale

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Our crusty baguette and Ramp Pesto, in small crock
by Matt Clark (did I mention he's also a potter?)

Ramp Pesto 
(makes approx. 1 cup)
Ramps have a deliciously strong flavor, and the raw garlic jumps right in with an added zip. The pesto would still be great without the garlic, if it makes you shy!

2 cups loosely packed tender ramp greens*, chopped
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 cup raw walnuts, lightly toasted
1 TBSP fresh squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
salt to taste
1 fresh, crusty baguette

Place ramp greens, nuts, garlic, cheese, black pepper, and lemon juice in food processor. Pulse or run on low until ingredients are evenly processed. Slowly drizzle in olive oil. Taste for salt and salt to taste.

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can't you just smell it?

Cut baguette on the diagonal in 1/2" slices. Lightly toast under the broiler. Lightly brush or drizzle with olive oil, then spread pesto on top of each slice. Garnish with thinly sliced radish.

*We used one bunch of ramps for the entire menu, using the tender leaves for the pesto and adding the chopped stems to the Kale (recipe follows). 

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Lamb Sausage on a bed of kale & ramps with bacon,
stoneware serving platter by Crazy Green Studios.

Sausage & Kale

1 pound lamb sausage, whole
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 pound kale, rinsed, stems removed and chopped, leaves torn into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup chopped ramp stems & bulbs
4 slices bacon*
fresh ground pepper
1 TBSP red wine vinegar

*use your favorite bacon. Matt had just splurged on some Mangalitsa (wooly pig!) bacon from Johnston County Hams (Smithfield, NC), and we used that. Smokey, salty, rampy greens.

Cook the bacon in a 12" skillet until as crisp as you like it. Set aside on paper towels to drain off excess grease while you prepare the rest of the dish. Pour off all but 1 TBSP of the bacon grease and reserve for other uses. 

In a 10" saute pan, heat 1 tsp. vegetable oil over medium heat. Brown whole sausages on all sides, then remove from heat. When cool enough to handle, cut on diagonal into 1" slices. Reheat oil and brown sausage on cut sides (in batches if necessary). 

Re-heat the pan over medium heat, then add the chopped kale stems and cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Add chopped ramp bulbs & stems and continue to cook another minute or so, then add the torn kale leaves and sprinkle vinegar over the pan. Stir greens and continue to cook until the kale leaves are wilted and tender (we used young kale, which was already tender, so this didn't take very long at all). Remove from heat.

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quail eggs
Quail Eggs
3 quail eggs per serving
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Heat a 10" saute pan over medium heat. Add just enough oil to grease the pan. Carefully break three eggs into a saucer. The inner membrane is tougher than a chicken egg, so we ended up cracking the egg with the back of a knife, then making a slit in the crack to make opening the shell easier. When the pan is hot, gently slide the three eggs together into the pan. Lightly season with salt & pepper and cook to 'sunny side up' (firm whites, soft yolks). Slide cooked eggs onto a clean plate and cook off in batches for each serving.

To serve: crumble some of the bacon atop the greens and serve with several slices of the sausage, and slide the quail eggs on top of the greens. Serve with a side of pickled beets & onions on a bed of sunflower sprouts, drizzled with the liquid from the pickled beets and a sprinkle of salt.

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Spring Brunch, served on stoneware plates by Crazy Green Studios

Matt's Pickled Beets & Onions were so delicious, we couldn't leave them out! You'll find that recipe on the blog portion of my website, just click HERE.

We leave you with our lovely view from the patio outside Bittersweet Cottage, until our next adventure (hint... have you ever cooked with stinging nettles?)!

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