Daily Logs: June 21, 2012

June 21, 2012   2 Comments

Daily Logs: June 15, 2012

June 15, 2012   No Comments

Pink salmon cakes

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It’s so nice to be cooking again and to have a friend to cook for. Salmon cakes, steamed broccoli, and plain quick quinoa. Quick, easy, yummy.

Salmon cakes: one can wild pink salmon, one egg, little bit flour, little bit parsley, one stalk celery, leftover half onion, spring onion we were trying to finish, splash of sesame oil, sprinkle salt. Makes six.

I don’t know a ton about sustainable seafood, but I have it on good authority (clever fish scientist friends + monterey bay aquarium) that pink salmon’s an especially good choice. Not pricey either. 

January 12, 2012   No Comments

Florida Market Cambodian Cookfest

A few weekends ago, I took a posse down to Florida market including coworkers from NSAC, visiting intern Kara from the Michael Fields Ag Institute (holla!), and friend Sara. We explored and laughed and made friends with taxidermed ruminants and then some folks followed me back home to cook up some traditional Cambodian fare.

We made Ban Chao (savory turmeric crepes) and papaya salad (recipe below) and vegetarian fresh rolls (aka goi cuon) with the quick kind of peanut sauce.

What a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

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Green Papaya Salad

1 green papaya shredded
10-15 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber in thin strips or matchsticks.
1 carrot in thin strips
1 cup peanuts toasted and crushed (optional)
1 cup unsweetened shredded, toasted coconut (optional)

2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar, palm sugar or regular white sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small green chili, minced (optional)

Peel the papaya and grate with a large grater or shred by the “hack and shave” method: holding the papaya in one hand and a sharp knife in the other, strike the fruit with force with the sharp edge of the knife to make multiple vertical parallel incisions. Next, take the knife and shave a thin layer off that side of the papaya so that it comes off in thin ribbons. Do the same with the cucumbers. Julienne the carrots into similar strips or matchsticks.

Prepare the dressing by mixing the ingredients in a bowl. Add the dressing to the salad and toss again.

Place on a serving platter, top with coconut and peanuts if you feel like it and your friends have no crazy allergies.

May 3, 2010   1 Comment

Making Community in DC: Brunch at Bates

Every weekend I spend in DC, I fall in love a little bit more. It’s a small town full of brilliant, motivated, passionate people who all seem to be connected to one another in a complicated, but pretty tiny social network. It’s a transitional town where people come and go and folks seem open to experience. Plus, it’s below the Mason-Dixon line, which (I’ve been told) means that folks are just naturally more friendly.

Sure, there are those who might be a little too into the ‘game’ — collecting connections like baseball cards (or Magic cards for the fantasy inclined), racking up favors, perfecting tactics, but I’ve been fortunate to mostly a crowd of interesting and genuine people.

To those who bemoan the black and grey suits, the wonkiness, the who-do-you-work-for-who-do-you-knowiness of the district, I say: come to Bates House to hang out and your soul will be revived. Next party’s Saturday April 17th — hope you can make it.

One weekend in February, we threw a little brunch party. Around 25 friends and neighbors came to snack on cinnamon rolls and frittata and drink delicious coffee. The first guest arrived a little before 11, and the last one headed out the door around 6. Seven hours of community and conversation: not bad for a lazy Sunday.

The drink station set-up. Strong coffee, Bailey’s, tea and mango puree. Yum.

Marcie making French toast and Chris on BACON, BACON, BACON.

Happy Chris and the first guests, partaking of food (plus the back wheel of my bicycle making a cameo appearance in the left corner)

Greg, the ex-architect and documentary film maker chatting with neighbor Lara, public health advocate and server at a legendary local bar.

Friends in the happy food corner, where most of Bates eating action happens.

Bates love.

The die-hards, sticking it out till the end. Can you spot the two ethnomusicologists in this picture? The activist who works directly with victims of human trafficking? DC, you are ridiculous.

March 27, 2010   No Comments

Wontons on a snowy night

Oh Hot, soupy, slippery wontons on a clear night after a deep snow.

The perfect portion of pork and scallion and soy wrapped in a soft, just-a-bit-chewy skin, topped with Sambal Oelek and a couple ladels of steamy broth with sliced cabbage.

What could be better?

wontons

Saturday night, I had the wonderful fortune to be invited to a wonton-making party down near Dupont Circle. I met up with friend Andy beforehand and we had a hot drink at Big Bear cafe and chatted about agriculture and business and solar power. Then we trudged through the slushy streets with our hands in our pockets and grins on our faces dodging the few silly motorists who dared to break the happy humanity of the evening.

It was a crowd of jolly 20-somethings, convening to drink and devour dumplings and delight in one another’s company. It was a crowd of many former classmates, whose faces I recognized, but who I couldn’t quite place. It made the party seem vaguely comforting and also a little unsettling.

A little after 10, I bundled up and headed outside, my hand on my belly, warm with beer and soup. I met up with Marcie five blocks away on the corner of 18th and Columbia and we trudged to a tall apartment building, where we went up to a party where no one knew anyone, but everyone was talking about love.

The party had cheese and wine and bread and those bright red roasted peppers in oil that have such a strange texture, like raw flesh. So we found a little corner and nibbled on things and talked about things until it was after one and we were sleepy, so we headed back to Marcie’s house.

The next morning, we got up and brought the computer to bed to seek out a breakfast spot. We shared some okay-but-not-great eggs and pancakes, had a mini-adventure at a furniture store nearby and then we each went our separate ways.

snowmageddon

February 9, 2010   No Comments

First Bates Haus Dinner w/ Pajun, Eggplant Basil Tofu, and lots of wine

By the end of Saturday night, everyone could speak for a full bottle of wine, plus a plastic bottle of unfiltered rice wine and a few delicious beers, the most wonderful of which was the Dogfish 120 minute IPA that made me feel like I was smack in the middle of a field of hops with my head thrown back, drinking in golden sunshine.

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But it wasn’t just a night for booze.

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There were friends. Lots of lovely friends.

We started at 6:30 and talked about food and wine and cutting up cows. We moved into music and farming and what makes ambition. Then into love and bike rides to Mt. Vernon. We contemplated climbing mountains. And around midnight, when most of the crew had left for the bars and their beds, the last comrades standing threw their hands in the air for an impromptu happy dance that lasted at least 5 songs.

bates-dinner-pajunThe recipe for pajun is from the New York Times — I doubled it with no incident. For the flour, went with 1/2 tapioca and 1/2 all-purpose for a slightly chewier, bouncier pancake.

For veg, I used green beans and scallions, minced finely into little green polka dots. I made the pancakes in a small pan so they’d be easier to flip and they’d work as appetizers. I served them with okonomiyaki sauce: spicy, tangy, perfect with eggs.

The curry was standard panang from a can — in this case, the Mae Ploy brand, doctored with sugar, fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves, lime juice, chilis and basil.

The eggplant basil tofu was a variation on a staple basil _(insert protein here)_ dish that I often make when I can get my hands on quantities of delicious basil and feel like something quick. The basic recipe follows below — the amounts are pretty flexible and up to your particular tastebuds.

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Playing hostess…

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Marcie and new roomie Chris with rice and rice-cakes from H-mart.

Eggplant Basil Tofu

5 Tbs. oil for frying tofu
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
3-4 shallots or half a medium onion, thinly sliced
1 lb firm tofu cut into thin blocks 1×1.5×1/4 inch
2 purple Asian eggplants (the long skinny ones)
2 tbsp water (or chicken broth)
1 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. fish sauce, or to taste (can substitute soy sauce or vegetarian fish sauce if you want to make it veggie-tarian)
2 Tsp sugar, or to taste
1 cup fresh Thai holy basil with whole leaves and flower buds, remove hard stems and coarse chop if desired

Optional:
4-5 Thai chilis, sliced into thin rounds (soak and remove seeds to reduce spiciness)
Other veggies — green beans, peppers, etc.

Coat the wok surface with oil. Heat the wok on medium-high until the oil is super hot, then add the tofu and fry on one side until golden brown (about 3 minutes). Flip and repeat until your tofu is crispy.

In the meantime, prepare your “sauce” in a medium-sized bowl. Mix together sugar, sauces and chilis.

Remove tofu from wok and put immediately into sauce mix to marinate.

Remove some oil from the pan until there’s about 1-2 tablespoons left. Heat on medium. Add onion and fry 1 minute, then add garlic and fry another 2 minutes until fragrant. Add in eggplant and other veggies and stir well. Add 2 tbsp of water or broth and cover.

Let cook another 2-3 minutes (don’t overdo the eggplant!), then pour in tofu, plus sauce and stir-fry for another 15 to 20 seconds. When back up to temperature (sauce is sizzling in the bottom of the wok), stir in the fresh basil. Toss well until the basil is wilted then remove from heat. Serve with white rice.

February 2, 2010   2 Comments

H-Mart in the snow

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virginia-driving

It snowed this weekend and it was beautiful. The white fluff piled up and up and up around our doorstep and in the street, disguising cars as white lambs, peaceful and chill.

We were warned that people in Washington couldn’t hack it on the roads in the snow, but still, we were determined to make the trek out to Falls Church, VA to the Korean superstore for provisions.

I was craving chili and strange smelling greens and products made of rice and tapioca. I wanted to rest my palm on the spikes of a durian and gape at a tank of geoducks and wrinkle my nose at the dried fungus. I wanted to stare at bewilderment at the choices of nori and buy bottles of soy sauce: light and dark and maybe some variations in between.

We were fairly warned, but still, the two hour trip (in fairer weather, 20 minutes or so) was long and I got cranky, but tried not to be because DC has been so beautiful so far that I didn’t want to ruin it over some ice and silly drivers.

And in the end it was worth it because H-mart had everything I wanted and banana flowers.

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That’s them on the right up above. And they had all kinds of greens like the funny long Thai “parsley” and the shiny lemony leaves that look like they come from a tree, but are soft, and all kinds of basil and mint.

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And, yes! Back there, in the plastic wrapping, there’s fresh turmeric and galangal and other hard-to-find, but totally awesome items.

Which means that I can go back there soon and get everything I need to make NOAM BAN CHOP, also known as Cambodian’s national dish — noodley goodness atop banana flower, cukes, topped with a fragrant, fishy, lemongrass, galangal, coconutty goodness and finished off with beansprouts and all kinds of fresh greens.

H-mart also had a fantastic selection of prepared foods, including crunchy, spicy pickled Daikon with sesame seeds that is so ridiculously yummy and refreshing that I could live off that and rice and a wee bit of egg for days straight.

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That’s new roomie Chris on the left, eating one of the fresh rice cakes from H-mart — the kind that don’t taste like cardboard, but more like sweet, crunchy, light melty yumminess. According to this Washington Post review, the rice cakes are made by Suk Pyo Choi and his wife, Hae Young out of rice, soybean, water and a little bit of artificial sweetener. I wonder if it would ruin the recipe to add some stevia instead? Perhaps I’ll suggest it to Mr. Choi next time I’m there.

Twas a good trip and when the snow melts again, I plan to take my bike out there for a little adventure. I wonder how a whole striped bass would look strapped over my back rack. Too great for words? Perhaps.
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January 31, 2010   2 Comments

Synergy Farmraiser Luncheon: Borscht, Basil, and Good Company

What fun to cook for a crowd. There’s gathering inspiration, making a plan, working out the details, prepping a few days in advance, tasting, tweaking, more prep the day-of, throwing things together, and voila! If you’ve put in the time, it’s then time to reap the satisfaction of watching the slurps and murmurs of happiness from your table.

Last Sunday, Synergy hosted a farm tour and luncheon to raise money for a local school. Lucy and I conjured the menu (mostly Lucy, really), Susan took care of the logistics and the table and the tour, and Peter was in charge of giving the farm background and history and an overview of our techniques and vision.

The food prep started on Wednesday afternoon when Lucy and I made the borscht, the homemade mayo, and basil dressing.

Borscht

Creamy Basil Dressing

Then, on Saturday, we made cupcakes and frosting and carrot curls for topping.

And finally, on Sunday, came the last burst of activity: picking fresh snap peas and peeling the chicken and frosting the cakes. Then prepping our mini serving stations, and finally, plating and serving the guests.

Soup prep station

Susan and Lucy in the kitchen


The menu and place settings

A history lesson


It was an intimate group: only 7. A family of three, and 4 other local women, all with gardens of their own. Everyone was engaged and asking questions and it felt good to share our stories and our farm experiences with people who were so interested and so well-informed.

Explaining our crop rotation strategy

Checking out the washing station

One day, maybe 5 or 10 years into my farm operation, I’d like to have a cafe. Or at least regular farm banquets like this to share the bounty. Or maybe a side operation in prepared foods for parties. Mmm… I know half the things I dream are unrealistic, but as they say “reach for the moon and if you miss, at least you’ll land in the stars.” Maybe not so true astronomically? But still a nice thought. I’ve found so far in my life, there’s something about saying things out loud to people that seems to make them come true.

Evidence of a great afternoon

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Menu:
Appetizer

Three Pestos with Snap Peas and Toast
Sorrel, arugula and garlic scape pestos served with freshly harvested, ready-to-burst snap peas and Cafe Demeter baguette toasts.

First Course
Red Ace and Cabbage Borscht
A ruby red vegetable soup adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook, starring beautiful Red Ace beets; slightly tangy and wholly delicious, lightly spiced with caraway and dill, served with Cafe Demeter walnut bread.


Main Course
Pastured Chicken on Fresh Greens with Creamy Basil Dressing
Flavorful and moist pasture-raised chicken tops a bed of crisp flavorful greens tossed in farm-made dressing featuring fresh basil and homemade mayonnaise from Synergy eggs.


Dessert
Napoli Carrot Spice Cakes
Tender, wholesome cupcakes from super sweet Napoli carrots, topped with freshly made cream cheese frosting and a flavorful carrot curl.


served with:
Freshly squeezed lemonade or home-brewed ice tea

For more recipes from that afternoon, check out the Synergy Recipe Blog.

Late June Russian Borscht

adapted by Lucy from The Moosewood Cookbook

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced potato
1 cup thinly sliced beets
4 cups chicken stock or water
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 scant teaspoon caraway seeds
1 1/2 tsp salt (or more, to taste)
1 medium sized carrot, sliced
3 to 4 cups shredded cabbage
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Bill’s honey
1 cup crushed tomatoes
fresh dill and sour cream for garnish

Place potatoes, beets, and stock in a medium-sized pot. Cover and cook over medium heat till tender (20 to 30 minutes).

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large pot or dutch oven. Add onion, caraway seeds, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent (8 to 10 minutes).

Add carrots, cabbage, and 2 cups of the cooking liquid from the potatoes and beets. Cover and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender (another 8 to 10 minutes).

Add remaining ingredients, including all the potato and beet liquid, cover, and simmer for at least 15 minutes. Taste to correct seasonings, and serve hot, topped with sour cream and a pinch of fresh dill.

June 28, 2009   4 Comments

Thai Food Feast

Last weekend was the Singapore feast, and this past Saturday we hosted another big dinner in honor of Jaime’s arrival — this time, representation from the (arguably) best known of the Southeast Asian cuisines: Thai.

The cooking only took a day this time (not counting some minor prep the day prior) but I had a lot of help from Jaime who can fry Pad See Ew like nobody’s business, among his other many talents.

We ended up with a crowd of a little over 20, and we estimate we fed everyone for a little under $3 a head — not bad, given the variety and the fact that we made two meat dishes, and fresh rolls with shrimp. Yum.

Prep work took most of Saturday morning and early afternoon

Mise en place — almost all the ingredients, ready for cooking

The chef snacking on a mango pit

The feast!

Jean serving up some noodly goodness

Patio arrangement courtesy of Lucy and Colin. Flower arrangements by Jaime.

The end of a great night.

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Menu:

Pineapple Fried Rice (This was a big hit with a bit of curry powder, spinach, and generous pineapple chunks)


Green Papaya Salad (The papaya was verging on not-green, but it still turned out dee-licious)


Tom Kha Gai, Galangal & lime chicken soup
(This soup was a major triumph, just the right amount of coconut, and the dried galangal and leftover kaffir lime leaves from last week infused the soup with a fantastic flavor)


Ground Pork Lettuce Wraps (Simple stir-fried crowd-pleaser)


Pad See Ew (Very similar in style to the Char Kway Teow from last week, but Jaime’s mad frying skillz made it so that the noodles stayed beautifully intact during the frying process)


Basil Tofu (Simple, quick and tasty vegetarian dish)


Fresh Rolls with Shrimp (Made with fresh local spotted prawns bought at the farmer’s market that very morning!)


Dessert
Black sticky rice with mango and toasted coconut

Synergy Farm Thai-style Lettuce Wraps

1 red bell pepper, diced finely
1 1/2 cups carrots, diced into 1/4” cubes
6-8 brown crimini mushrooms, diced into 1/4” cubes
1 cup snow peas, cut horizontally into 1/4” strips
3 garlic scapes diced into circles 1/4” thick
1 small onion minced
1 large shallot minced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 lb ground pork

2 tbsp oil for frying
2 tbsp fish sauce
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro or mint or basil

2 lettuce heads (preferably a butter lettuce variety or trouthead for perfect lettuce-wrapping cups)

optional: 1 tbsp oyster sauce
, two green thai chilis, minced finely, other vegetables such as bean sprouts, cabbage, sugar snap peas, green beans, etc.

Heat 2 tbsp oil on high heat in your pan or wok. Add in shallot and onion and fry for 10 seconds until fragrant, then add in garlic and fry another 20 seconds. Add ground pork, breaking it up with your spatula or wooden spoon. Fry for 2 minutes, or until browning, but not yet cooked.

Add in carrots and snow peas and scapes and fry another 2 minutes, stirring well. Add in mushrooms and bell pepper and fry another 2 minutes. The meat should be cooked, and everything should be well mixed.

Add in sauce and chilis, if using. Stir well to coat all ingredients. Add in chopped herbs (cilantro, mint or basil) and stir until wilted.

Serve at room temperature with washed lettuce leaves.

June 10, 2009   13 Comments