Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Get mashed

"Two tickets, please."

Every so often, membership has its privileges. Though often combined with a fun and tasty potluck meal, most of my work with Slow Food DC involves many meetings and lots of logistical planning. It was fun this past Friday night to simply kick back with a couple of free tickets to a fantastic benefit dinner for my local Slow Food chapter thrown by two amazing chefs.

Did I mention it was a beer dinner?

Not only that, but one of the chefs -- Andrew Gerson -- is also one of the driving forces behind my all-time favorite spent grain cooking blog. I was so excited to be in the same room, and listened eagerly as the surprisingly humble but knowledgeable chef explained the beer pairing as we passed around each of the six courses. So entranced was I that I almost spilled my beer. Twice. (I maybe don't need to mention that I was entirely too shy, even after five or six drinks, to approach Chef Andrew to tell him how much I love his work. I mean, he's a real spent grain chef. Me, I dabble. No need to babble.)

The food was stellar, as was the beer. But the genius was in the pairing. Okay, fine, there was quite a bit of inventiveness in the food itself, actually, as chef Hiyaw Gebreyohannes mingled traditional Ethiopian flavors with globally inspired dishes ranging from a surprisingly spicy guacamole with toasted injera chips to a watermelon and catfish ceviche to beer braised lamb shanks to a custard with figs and honeyed injera. My favorite, though, was the chicken and peanut stew. (Oh, no, not because it was paired with my favorite Brooklyn pumpkin ale. No, really. That is good beer, though.) Kenton and I left the four-hour-long meal around midnight with full bellies and happy hearts.

To the Brooklyn brew crew and Slow Food DC, I must say thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

It was an amazing meal, and so beautifully presented, that some of us who will remain anonymous maybe took their placemat home as a memento....

Monday, September 23, 2013

Green pre-teens

It's not just me who is obsessed with raw kale salad. It's not even just the entire third grade at Watkins Elementary who can't get enough. Now folks all over the city will be making it. At least those who attended the healthy cooking session at the Good Food Stage at 2pm last Saturday. Some of them were fortunate enough to walk away with beautiful bouquets of fresh kale, courtesy of FreshFarm Markets (who sponsored the demo), ready to make it at home.

I like to think it was me who got the audience interested in eating dark leafy greens, but in truth credit is due to the Watkins superstars who stole the show during our salad making demonstration at the Green Festival. Many an audience member came up afterwards to pick up a copy of the simple yet irresistible recipe, to ask questions, and -- mostly -- to marvel at the poise and skills of my assistant chefs.

We all know I hate public speaking, but I keep ending up in front of groups. Luckily, these amazing 9-year-olds from my third grade FoodPrints classes last year upped the cuteness factor enough to cover for my mumbling into the wireless microphone and near stabbing of myself in the hand trying to saw open the jug of olive oil. Many thanks to my lovely assistants, Destiny, Damiyah, and Londyn, for their help this weekend -- I'd be proud to work with you any time!

Monday, September 16, 2013

A not-so-lazy Sunday

When my boyfriend and I decided to spend yesterday together, I wondered how it was going to go down. His agenda: football. My agenda: canning. Seems incongruous, no? Successful relationships are all about compromise.

As he cracked open a beer and settled down to some snacks at my kitchen table, Kenton joked that he couldn't just sit there like the lazy grasshopper in the children's story while the ant processed 25 lbs of tomatoes. ("Who are you calling an ant?") I am not one to turn down help in the kitchen, mind you, so as the NFL pre-game commentary yammered on in the background, I gave the grasshopper a quick primer on canning: wash, sterilize, score, scald, fill, check, seal, process, cool.

Kenton scored and scalded tomatoes during commercial breaks, peeled heads of garlic with increasing zeal in the clove smashing department as the game went on and the just-returned star quarterback biffed another key play. I stirred fresh garlic and basil and red wine into the pasta sauce simmering on the back burner, poked air bubbled out of jars of tomatoes before sealing them, and paused to wave my jar grabber to echo the protest against another bad call by the must-be-almost-blind referee.

I'm happy to report that though the Redskins did not have a win under their belt, the afternoon was not lost: we had 10 quarts of processed tomatoes cooling on the counter. Not bad for an ant and a grasshopper on a Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Suitland salsa

Last week, my friend Jessica asked if I could lead a bulk salsa and pesto-making session at a church in Suitland. Get paid to teach a group of friendly local food lovers and farmers' market supporters to make some of my favorite foods? Yes, ma'am. Call me any time.

I took the metro out early Monday morning to meet up with the group at a church that had agreed to let us use their commercial kitchen. With Maxine at the wheel, we roamed the area to gather our necessary ingredients and equipment. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find fresh cilantro in this urban food desert?? I do believe it took three separate stops to find it. (First world problems, yes.) Then we had a little stop for lunch. (It is me we're talking about here, and by then I'd gone more than three hours without a snack. Thanks for treating me to lunch, Antoinette!) We made our way back to the Hunter Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church and for the better part of the afternoon, the four of us washed, chopped, stirred, and blended many quarts of fresh tomato salsa and kale-sunflower-seed pesto for taste testing at the Suitland Farmers' Market.

There may have been a little taste testing during our session, but that was purely for quality control.

Interestingly, the salsa was not nearly as spicy as I'd remembered it being when I made it with middle schoolers awhile back. No matter how many jalapeno peppers we added, the "hot" salsa never got very hot. Maybe it's because we used grocery store peppers instead of farmers' market ones. I wonder. In any case, it was still very fresh tasting and delicious with the onion and (much sought after) cilantro. Our market shoppers who tasted it the next day seemed to like it just fine scooped up with whole wheat tortilla chips, so we may give this another go sometime soon.

The sunflower seed-based pesto was not as good as Jessica's original version using peanuts, but with peanut allergies abounding these days, I opted for tasteability over taste-superiority. It wasn't bad, but we can do better. And I very much look forward to that research....

It was a lot of fun all around, but my favorite part of the afternoon was hearing from one of my young assistant chefs how excited she was to learn to make pesto from scratch, how she loved tasting and adjusting the recipe each time -- a squeeze of lemon juice here, a little more garlic there, maybe a pinch of salt -- and how she just couldn't wait to go home and make a batch with her young daughter.

Ah. This is why I do what I do.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Green machine

Yesterday evening, I handed my friend John a bag of vegetarian goodies through his car window -- he'd stopped by for a food pickup, but it is impossible to park in my new neighborhood, alas, so there I was out on the curb -- with the stern warning that the creamy green gazpacho that was included was highly addictive. I am not even kidding.

Two weeks ago, while I was helping out with a chef demo at the 14&U farmers' market, I slurped no less than three samples before I felt too sheepish to keep pretending they were for other people and decided to make my own batch. Kenton agreed, and the following day we whipped up a blenderful of our very own, devouring it almost instantly. And I've made two more batches since.

Good lord, it's delicious.

You should totally buy Joe Yonan's new cookbook, from whence the recipe comes, but since he was handing it out on free recipe cards I don't mind recounting it here....

Creamy Green Gazpacho

  • 1 medium tomato, cored and cut into quarters
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 3 large basil leaves
  • 1/2 jalapeño (optional), seeds removed
  • 3/4 cup lightly packed watercress or baby spinach leaves
  • 1 small celery stalk (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 ice cubes -- I smashed mine with a hammer
  • Filtered water (optional)
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 avocado, cut into large chunks


Combine the jalapeño with tomato, cucumber, avocado, basil, watercress or spinach, celery, garlic, red wine vinegar, honey, and ice cubes in a blender or the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth. Add 1/4 cup or more water to thin the mixture, if necessary. 

Taste and season with salt, pepper, and more vinegar, if needed. Refrigerate until cold.