Friday, October 28, 2011

The Case for Pie - New York Times, 1902

NYT broke this story on May 3, 1902:
"No pie-eating people can ever be permanently vanquished." 

I'm not saying this statements in this column aren't socially and culturally problematic, even racist, but I cannot help but get behind one thing this author siezes upon:

 Pie. Is. Powerful.

Thanks to Alex Barron for this. I don't know where you find things like this, but I'm glad you do, and I'm glad you send them along to me. What's your favorite piece of pie? And have you made it recently?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Apple Cider Bread or The Basic Bread Dough

This Apple Cider Bread is a simple adaptation of the classic lean bread dough. A lean dough is a dough without any enrichment in the way of sugar or fat, and is the basis for classic rustic artisan breads the world over.  Here's a little secret: you can exchange any part of this liquid in this recipe for something else. Water. Beer. Some buttermilk for tang. This bread dough is so versatile, and bakes up gorgeously, it will become a standard I'm-craving-hot-fresh-bread-but-didn't-pull-together-a-sourdough dough. I used my stand mixer for this bread since I was short on time, but knead by hand if you like.  Its a wet dough, so you may need to oil your hands during the kneading stage.

Apple Upside-Down Cake or My Cliched Love of All Things Apples

In the words of Pepe LePew, or was it the lady skunk he was always chasing after:

*le sigh*

The object of my adoration? The reason for my swoony mooning? The current "apple" of my foodie eye?

Its apple season, y'all.

I know its not terribly creative to be in love with apples at this time of year.  Everyone and their brother is apple baking, apple caking, apple picking, and apple... licking. (Whatever. Shut up.) But with the discovery of heirloom variety apples, and the knowledge that you can store apples for months and months and months, I look forward to apple season almost as much as I look forward to my birthday.  And as a self-obsessed ego-maniac, that's saying something.

So, 2 things today about apples: recipes and an event you can't miss. First off is Vintage Virginia Apples Annual Harvest Festival on Saturday, November 5th.  I know, you all are all harvest-festivaled out, but that's just because you haven't been to this place down  on 29 South yet. This is the One Festival to Rule Them All.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Funnel Cake or Why I Don't Eat Funnel Cake

This weekend was a crazy one: the Richmond Folk Festival was in town.  After being in Richmond for only a few months, I've already been identified as one of the few old-time guitar rhythm players in town.  So, amazingly, I performed at the Folk Festival on the Virginia Folk Life stage for the flatfoot clogging demo on Saturday. (Check out some video here.  I'm the young lady with the pearls playin' the guitar.)  It went well, and now my mediocre guitar playing will be forever immortalized in the Library of Congress, yo! I gave my maiden name for the description; as a newly married woman, I felt the Orwig clan deserved recognition for all my years of middling musical training and skills.

That said, there was MORE to be done that weekend. Jammin' on the James, a Lindy Hop dance workshop was all weekend, so I spent the rest of Saturday and all day Sunday experiencing the kind of pleasure and deep embarrassment that comes from being a 31-year-old beginner at anything, much less at dancing. That said, I had a heck of a time, listened to Dixie-land jazz that included a sousaphone, and ended up having dances with my hubby that made me feel that I might have learned a bit about Lindy Hop after all. Which is good.

But thrilling as all this may sound, it is not the reason I'm writing.  Oh no.  I'm writing, ever so briefly, about funnel cake.
Photo courtesy of user Lorax & released under the GNU FDL from Wikipedia
Inspired by the Richmond Food Collective's recent discussion of fair food, I realized I had $10 worth of food tickets from performing at the Folk Festival that I hadn't redeemed by Sunday afternoon when our Lindy workshop ended. So Jefferson and I headed over to catch the last band at the Richmond Folk Festival (afro-cuban AMAZINGness), and since we missed the State Fair this year, cash in on our annual fried dough obsession. 2 funnel cakes used up all my tickets, and boy-oh-boy were we pleased.

1st taste: Oh yum! Hot, sweet, buttery dough, chewy and perfect!
2nd bite: Oh god! The taste sensation continues!
4th mouthful: *pause to catch breath*
5th go: I feel funny.
6th bite: Is that my liver twitching?
7th bite: Oy.  Shoulda stopped at bite number 6.

I gave the rest to Jefferson, who not only ate all of his, but finished the last 1/3 of mine. We then shook our booties (and the powdered sugar off our fronts) for a few minutes to the Afro-Cuban harmony madness of the Pedrito Martinez Group, and then waddled home.  That was at 5:30pm, and it turned out that the funnel was to be our dinner.  Mostly because we both felt if we ate anything else, our livers would go on strike. Blergh.  Who knew that I'd need Tums after a little fried dough. (Okay, a LOT of fried dough.)  And considering my suffering, you might ask if I had the chance, would I do it all over again?

Yes. Yes, I would. And you know what? At next year's State Fair: you betcha I will.

Now, time to go train for that half marathon. I wonder if they'll allow waddling as well as jogging?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Best Mojitos or what I've been cooking all week but not blogging about

Its not that I haven't been cooking. In fact, as the thronging mass of fall harvest comes flowing into my kitchen, I've been cooking like crazy. The trouble is, turns out, taking photos of food is HARD.  Also: remembering to take photos of food isn't such a cakewalk either.  So, every night when I sit down to blog, I think, "well, crap, I forgot to finish taking photos of that".  So, with that in mind, here's the reader's digest version of My Week in Food:

Baby-sized cabbage from Horse & Buggy
Apple-Cabbage Slaw & Mushroom-Cabbage Galette: This cabbage showed  up in my produce share from Horse & Buggy Produce.  Have I talked enough about these folks yet? Also, have I fessed up that I'm a longtime subscriber and now I WORK for them? True story.  Anyhow, their food is grown by Mennonite farmers in the Shenandoah valley, and although I am admittedly biased, the veg from H&BP is incredible: consistently fresh, gorgeous, and oh-so-tasty.  It drives my cooking experience on a day to day basis. (Mostly because we get a "family" share for just me and my husband, so I have to keep cooking to keep the produce avalanche at bay.)

So, this cabbage was literally the size of a 2 month old child.  (BTW: when I say literally, I literally mean the word "literally". As opposed to the metaphoric way most folks are using the word literally nowadays.  Pet peeve much? I think so.) I used half for an Apple-Cabbage slaw, and the other half for a variation on Deb's mushroom-cabbage galette. Mine included some ground beef and crazy curry spice. A quick note about this galette: I'll make variations of this over and over again this winter, but I've got some serious pastry opinions and am constantly tweaking. More pastry pontification laterz...

Butternut Squash with Green Lentils & Mint: evidently, this was a SmittenKitchen kind of week, and I found myself turning to Deb's fantabulous cooking blog almost every day.  This week, I was catering an office luncheon to feature Horse & Buggy's produce, and I had the following to work with:

Butternut, pre-dismantling
The recipe was tweaked from the original, omitting the goat cheese and roasting the squash for considerably longer.  The winter squash salad is totally a revelation.  The basic recipe is: roast a cubed up winter squash, toss with some sort of legume (chickpeas, beans, lentils, etc), a fresh herb like parsley, cilantro, or mint, and a light dressing, like walnut oil and red wine vinegar. I promise, in the depths of February where you can't stomach the thought of another squash soup, this salad will save you.  Also, will you please take a look at the size of this butternut? That is a 10 inch chef's knife, people! That means the BLADE is 10 inches. So that means, this squash is as long as my thigh and nearly as rotund. The Mennonites are NOT FOOLING AROUND when it comes to vegetables.

Other recipes I couldn't help myself from this week:

  • Roasted Sweet Potato rounds with Thanksgiving on Top: I told you it was a SmittenKitchen-fest here in the Night Kitchen.  I swapped walnuts for pecans, cherries for cranberries, and used fancy-pants walnut oil instead of olive. Uh, yum.
  • The Best Deep Dish Apple Pie: look forward to a post on this, complete with pictures and a new, mind boggling-ly easy pastry technique. Promise.
  • Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes: they were piling up in my fridge and I just WANTED them.
  • Roasted Tomato & Green Bean salad: this was a last-minute brainstorm that was inspired and savory. Expect a post on this sweet-patootie too, once I get more green beans and find the damn camera.

Finally: last night? Mojitos.  I made them. I drank them. They are inexplicably intoxicating, (and not just because they're alcoholic).  And they aren't always, this is not a cocktail where you can just "wing it". I know they seem simple: mint, sugar, lime, rum.  Except if you do it wrong? Mint-flavored cough syrup. For real.  Its not pretty (personal experience perhaps?). Though to be fair, that's what happens when you let clowns mix your drinks (ask me later)....

Once I started the mint in my porch planter, I knew I'd have a lot of drinking to do.  So, finally, after all that culinary de-briefing, here's the mojito recipe you've all been waiting for. You'll never curse your mint plant's precocious growth ever again.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Starting a Blog - Motivating, Creative Tool or Just Really Pleased with Myself?

Of note: I'm not really good at what you might call "follow through".

Never have been.  Truly, and seriously, I thought of starting a food blog YEARS ago.  I had one. That I never posted on. And then, suddenly, I get a job at Horse & Buggy Produce (more on these folks later. I know I keep referencing them, so I'll fess up my alliances in another post this week), and move to Richmond, and feel like now's as good a time as any.  So, here it is. She Has Boots Has Arrived.

Trouble is, I'm still sorting out what it is I want to be saying in this forum.  I know that I want to write about food, but, as with my obsession with cooking and homemaking, nourishment is too small a concept to hold what it is that the kitchen symbolizes for me. Or perhaps it is that, as a jack of all trades, not only is there a lack of mastery of any subject, but it is in fact the great breadth of my hobbies that keeps me sane and living free.  I couldn't write a blog just on food, or cooking, or art, or music, or gardening, or finding a path, or being a domestic renegade feminist, but somehow they all weave together to create a life that is my creative life.  It is all those moments of making stuff that are sprinkled throughout my days.

It has always been the making of things that gives me the greatest pleasure.

So, perhaps this little portal is a container for that place in my life. Because truly, making a winter soup is not so different from forming a band, and growing seedlings not so far from creating an ensemble of musicians.  The skill set is the same. And in the moments when I feel the most ordinary, the most bored and boring, afraid that I'll leave this world having achieved nothing of note or worth, I think about making some bread. Or sowing some seed. Or making something grow, live, change, expand, develop and thrive.  And it is those small acts of creating, of making, of bringing into being, that don't seem magical or ambitious.  Just real and alive.

(Uh, so expect some occasional rambling like this y'all. I didn't FEEL like writing about soup, alright?!)