Sunday, November 25, 2012

When your goose is cooked

I will admit that I've been wanting to try roasting a goose for some time now. No, not just because geese are loud, mean creatures -- well, they are! -- but I'm always on the lookout for a challenge in the kitchen. I have managed in recent years to pretty much master roasting chicken and duck (if I do say so myself), and to be honest when there was a mixup with the Muscovy duck I'd ordered from one of the local farmers last weekend I took it as a sign that I was at last meant to cook a goose. He had one on hand, ready to go. There was just one little problem: mom had expressly nixed goose as an option when I proposed it last Thanksgiving. "Too gamy," she insisted. Well. Maybe I just wouldn't tell her it was goose until afterwards. I wouldn't lie about it, exactly, just refer to it as "the bird" until after the first helping....

Thanksgiving morning began with me lopping off the long neck of the (thankfully) plucked and footless bird, then cutting off the excess fat while mom and dad went to church. After a rather comical skin-pricking and scalding of "the bird," I dunked some prunes in sherry to soak awhile. This would be the base for the bird's stuffing -- "If this doesn't balance out the gamy flavor, I don't know what will!" I mused as I later sipped on the plum-infused sherry -- along with apples, orange zest, and roasted chestnuts, according to the roast goose recipe I'd chosen. My plan for the Chinese White heritage goose was almost foolproof.


By around 6 that evening, I'd sufficiently smoked up the kitchen with melting goose fat and singed the bird. Dad and I determined it was ready to carve and bring into the dining room.

 While the skin was crispy and the color was nice -- all dark meat, when cut up it was almost identical to the lamb dad had roasted (because apparently there was not enough meat on the table for the 5 of us) -- the meat itself was tough, stringy, and... gamy. We all tried some, but nobody reached for seconds. This may have been been as much due to the flavor as to the fact that the almost-6-pound bird didn't have much meat on it. (I later learned that these are generally laying geese rather than meat birds. Yes, apparently so.)

Maybe it's my Catholic upbringing, or maybe my culinary pride, but on Friday morning I felt compelled to confess to mom that it was in fact a goose -- not a duck -- that we'd eaten the night before. "I was wondering why it looked and tasted funny," she laughed. Dad and I decided to toss the carcass: no need for goose soup. (I did save a little of the rendered goose fat for frying up some latkes sometime soon, though.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

A pumpkin on the porch

Note to self: do not mock farmer friends who do not have enough time to carve a jack-o-lantern or you may end up with an orange behemoth on your porch.

It came to pass that Farmer Robert left a pumpkin on my doorstep about 2 weeks ago. Having a soft spot for pumpkins as well as an almost clinical condition that will not allow me to let food go to waste, I wrung my hands for about a week before deciding to do something with the enormous cucurbit. Ever find yourself in such a predicament? I can't be the only one out there.

Mind you, I'd already made more than a gallon of pumpkin butter with the various winter squashes and pumpkins left over from 5 -- count 'em, FIVE -- lessons that involved cleaving open dozens of bright orange vegetables with 3rd graders in late October. I was quite proud of myself for disposing of the various jars filled with spiced orange-y spread amongst friends and neighbors so quickly. While I brainstormed ways to utilize this more recently acquired gourd on Friday morning, I began to chop, scoop, and roast.... An hour and four heavily loaded cookie sheets later, I had the pumpkin (plus half an heirloom Jarrahdale squash) roasted and ready.

I made a triple batch of curried pumpkin soup to bring to the 5-year anniversary dinner for a senior housing community in the neighborhood on Friday afternoon, but that only took out about a third of the stockpile of mashed pumpkin. So I took a few pre-roasted pieces to cousin Sonia's for dinner on Friday night -- these ended up pureed into a lovely shrimp and pumpkin bisque. With still nearly 10 cups of pumpkin left, I was getting antsy. A few more cups made it into another batch of pumpkin soup for my Slow Food DC board retreat on Saturday afternoon. Then this afternoon, I baked 3 loaves of pumpkin bread and a solid dozen pumpkin walnut muffins.

What's that? The seeds? Yeah, there were a lot of those, too. I roasted 'em while preheating the oven and am nibbling on them as I type.


I have about 3 cups' worth of roasted, pureed pumpkin left. Any ideas?? (Six batches of pumpkin biscotti, perhaps?)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

When I say "farmers," you say "market!"




I love my work. I do not much love public speaking, however. And yet the two overlap more and more these days.

Take the pre-Thanksgiving rally this past Saturday, where my self-proclaimed "sister from another mother," JoAnn, who runs the outreach program for the World Missions Church, introduced me to her congregation of 300+ families. She asked me to say a few words to the crowd of low-income residents who had gathered to pick up boxes of food -- collective contributions from a number of local organizations. I spoke for a few minutes about the local apples and sweet potatoes donated by the Bloomingdale Farmers' Market, and the food assistance programs that we offer (and match up to $10 per benefit) each weekend. Food stamps, WIC, senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program vouchers... I can almost give the talk in my sleep by now, but each time I'm in front of a group I still get a little nervous.

The turnout on this chilly, sunny morning was quite impressive. So, too, was the positive energy. JoAnn's encouragement and help connecting me with her people made me a little choked up. (It wasn't just the wind making my eyes a little watery.) She really gets what we're trying to do: make healthy food accessible for everyone, regardless of age or color or income.

"Wait, so let me get this straight," my co-speaker bellowed into the microphone. "You mean you can use your food stamps at the farmers' market on Sundays and get free food? Wait, wait, wait. Hold on there. You mean if I spend ten dollars on my food stamp card, I get another ten dollars to spend on more food at the market? That's a deal!"

"Yes, that's the idea," I confirmed, as she handed me back the mic.

I can't tell you how many folks came up to me as over the next half hour I slowly made my way from the stage past the food pickup tables over to where I had Ollie locked up. They'd ask me for copies of our market postcards, or what fruits and vegetables we'd have at our final market of the season the following day, and how much we would match each week ("$10 per benefit, per weekend," I assured them). From what the market director, Robin, tells me, there were a number of new shoppers at today's market, quite a few of whom had heard about it -- and the various federal assistance benefits that BFM accepts -- during yesterday's rally. Hooray!

So this getting over my aversion to public speaking is a good thing, since I suspect Robin will want me to do something similar next spring. I may start to dread it less, especially when I am so warmly received and the positive impact is so visible. So, neighbors, keep showing up at our farmers markets... I need the positive reinforcement.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pain in the rear

A few weeks ago, while we were picking out my new bike wheel at the local shop, dad pointed out that my snazzy new front wheel had a new tire that did not match my older tire on the rear wheel. "I am not a fashion maven to begin with," I assured him, "and certainly not concerned with such things when it comes to bike gear." (This has been evidenced most recently by my tendency to wear my new, warm brown, under-helmet knit cap with my black windbreaker while zipping around town. They both do their job, and so who cares if they match?) But today I realized there was another reason I should have taken him up on the offer to buy me a new rear tire: the one I had is worn out. Badly.

Too bad it took me three flat tires over the past three weeks to admit it. (What can I say, I'm stubborn.)

The final straw came this morning, as I heard the familiar pop and hiss en route to my monthly meeting with DC farmers' market directors. Luckily, I was only two blocks from my destination when it happened, and I locked a fully-rear-flattened Ollie to a pole and arrived only 5 minutes after the meeting started. Still, I was not a happy camper.

Within minutes of exiting the 2-hour meeting, I was covered in bike grease as I pulled off the rear wheel and felt around to discover yet another gash in the kevlar-belted tire. (I sure hope kevlar is more effective in combat wear than it is against the shrapnel lying around DC streets is all I can say....) So I patched Ollie up as best I could, shook my fist at the sky, and grumbled as I rode over to The Bike Rack to get a new rear tire.

The good folks at the shop handed me a matching tire -- well, it might as well match at this point -- and I bought a few spare tubes for good measure. As I suited Ollie up with her new tire earlier this evening, I realized that my steady ride hasn't had a new rear tire since... cousin Laith bought her a new one on our way through Austin. Okay, it was time. And now she's ready to roll for the winter:

Monday, November 12, 2012

All kale, all the time

My, oh, my do I love kale salad. And it's a good thing, too, since the bottom shelf of my fridge seems to be continuously filled with bunches and bunches of kale these days.

making massaged kale salad - 7 nov 2012making kale salad at walker jones clinic 5 - oct 2012

From a Growing Healthy Schools week cooking lesson at Cap City Charter School to an anti-obesity clinic session for seniors at Walker Jones to a healthy cooking class with kiddos at the Upper Cardozo clinic, it seems that I am not the only one who cannot get enough of this most delicious and nutritious of leafy green vegetables. (It's too bad I didn't snap a pic of the 3rd graders at Watkins Elementary clamoring for seconds on the Tuscan kale salad at the end of last week's FoodPrints class. Alas.)

I don't want you to think I am a one-trick pony, though. I can make other things with kale. Like hearty, warming kale and bean soup, which poor Kenton ate no less than 3 versions of over the course of last week as I perfected my recipe for a "Kale Three Ways" cooking workshop at the Upper Cardozo clinic. The first iteration (also taste tested by Cousin Sonia) was good with black beans and chicken sausage, but the best version turned out to be the one made with cannellini beans and cabbage and smoked ham. Oh, it's good. One of the moms who came to join us at the end of last Wednesday night's class may well have licked the pot if I hadn't been standing there next to it.

Should you find yourself with a little extra pork lying around, I'd offer this simple, inexpensive recipe. It's easy to make a double batch for a crowd, too, this holiday season....

Ham, Bean, and Kale Soup

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • ½ pound (or more) of ham steak, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cans beans (Great Northern, cannellini, navy, etc.)
  • 2 cups cabbage, finely chopped
  • 8 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cups (or more) fresh kale, stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • grated Parmesan cheese, optional


Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add onions, ham, and brown sugar and sauté for about 5 minutes (until onions are tender). Add garlic and saute for a minute, until fragrant. Add one can of the rinsed beans, and use a heavy spoon or potato masher to mash the beans. (This will help thicken the broth later on. I kid you not, this makes the soup really phenomenal.)

Stir in cabbage and thyme and mix well, cooking for a few more minutes. Add broth, cover, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes longer. Stir in the rest of the beans and the chopped kale, and simmer until the kale is bright green and tender. Season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with parmesan cheese if you like.

(Y si quiere la receta en español, la tengo....)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I'll be patching you in all the old, familiar places

And here we are again on the side of the road.

After a fantastic lesson on bright orange and leafy green vegetables with 3rd graders at Watkins Elementary, just moments ago Ollie and I were on our way to the store to pick up ingredients for tomorrow's health fair cooking demonstration (for 200 preschoolers!) when I heard a quick pop and that old, familiar hissing sound.

At least FOR ONCE it is a beautiful sunny day, and the flat happened just alongside a lovely park with lots of autumn foliage and vacant benches here in Northeast DC.

Ah, yes, not so bad after all. (And I'm sure I'll enjoy the cheese samples at Whole Foods with the subtle metallic flavor of bike grease. "Yes, it really complements the saltiness of the parmesan....")

Thursday, November 1, 2012

DC School Garden Bike Tour

Because I can't say no, apparently, a couple of months ago Sam over at the State Superintendent's office talked me into leading this year's DC School Garden Bike Tour -- the concluding event of Growing Healthy Schools Week. (Because DC Farm to School Week and DC School Garden Week 2012 were, go figure, the exact same week, somebody decided to combine the two. Incidentally, I also led two hands-on cooking classes for with students from Oyster Bilingual and Cap City Charter School for GHS earlier that same week. More on those entertaining lessons coming soon.)


[Photo courtesy of fellow cyclist, Jaqueline Hammond]

I could not have pulled it off without the help of my friends Kealy and Ariel, whose logistical and moral support proved invaluable as schools and routes shifted... again... and again... and Kenton, who fearlessly joined me on test rides between the schools, including that terrifying stretch that we decided to circumvent after white-knuckling it across the river on decidedly bike-unfriendly East Capitol. (Flashback, anyone?) I should know from the last time that organizing a group bike outing is like herding cats, but once again, on the day of the ride everything came together.

October 20th was perhaps the perfect cycling day -- bright, sunny, warm (in the sun), and with a bit of a breeze. More than 40 folks showed up at Kelly Miller School, the first of five of the finest school gardens our city has to offer. The majority of these folks joined me for the biking version of the tour that I led through Southeast and Northeast DC. Also included on the tour was Prospect Learning Center, winner of this year's "Golden Shovel" award (largely due to the inspiring essay written by one of the students, which I got to hear firsthand at the Kid Power celebration dinner a few nights later.)

At each stop, a garden manager or parent spoke about the green space's history, what was growing, and how students (and in some cases, staff) engage with the growing spaces. Most had raised garden beds bursting with vegetables and herbs, some had pollinator gardens. A few were specifically geared towards students with various physical and learning challenges. Some were integrated into the curriculum, while others were used primarily for after school programs. Each had a story to tell of challenges and successes. In truth, I think the story of the ride is best told by the video, shot by Francis over at BicycleSpace:

Special thanks to Jordan, whose bike-along stereo system made the bike tour the most fun thing ever. Nothing like 80s tunes to pep up an already great day. I may have to insist that all bike tours I organize going forward include a bikeable boombox. (Yep, I'm sure I'll get talked into organizing another one. Maybe a Bike the Breweries tour this spring?)