Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Suzy's Massaged Sesame Kale Salad

A recent visit from my dear west coast friend brought with it more than freshly cut memories. In keeping with being one of the most pleasant house guests, Suzy prepared a fair share of food while staying with us, (I am still finding puddles of drool from her fresh shrimp spring rolls with a peanut sauce good enough to drink...yes, I liked the jar it was in before subjecting it to dish suds) inspiring new recipes and a killer new way to eat kale. When she suggested massaging the kale, I very well may have rolled my eyes. This is the girl who used to wear wings to concerts and paint stars on her Volkswagen's stick shift after all. Was this simply leftover fruity-glitz from our Phish tour days? As her sous chef, I can assure you it was not, though who knows what thread from the past inspired her to massage the kale the first place? I may not want to know.
Getting your hands into this recipe is what transforms the kale leaves into surprisingly supple forkfuls without the need for heat. This salad glistens with sesame oil and briny tamari, reminiscent of wakame salad, an absolutely perfect accompaniment to Thai or Asian inspired dishes.
Thank you Suzy Creamcheese, for well over a decade (okay, I feel old) of friendship, and for hand delivering a new way to enjoy kale from your coast to ours. We miss you!

Suzy's Massaged Sesame Kale Salad:
*1-2 bunches lacinato kale, rinsed, ribs removed
*high quality sesame oil
*high quality tamari
*sesame seeds
*1 tsp. fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
*1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
*1 garlic clove, pressed through a garlic press
*1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped

Finely chop kale leaves and transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Drizzle with sesame oil and massage into leaves (adding enough oil to "make kale shine"). Continue to massage kale until it becomes dark in color and soft. Dress with tamari to taste. Add remaining ingredients. Toss well and serve.

May be refrigerated prior to serving.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

This Ship Has Sailed

Returning from an early morning walk with my daughter and my mutt, we were informally greeted by a flock of turkeys milling about in our yard. My dog is a bit past his prime these days, and usually just gallops toward a turkey doing little more than ruffling some feathers. But today he ended up with a juvenile between his teeth.
I demanded he drop the bird, which he did (maybe he was as surprised as the rest of us) but the damage had already been bestowed. Sigh. I put the dog in the house and called the only person to call in situations such as these, my dear friend Dana- wildlife whisperer and general dealer of sound advice.
We went over the options: 1) Move the turkey into the shade and see if it bounces back. 2) Take it down the road to the animal hospital. 3) Finish it off and end its suffering.
Humm. With nap time closing in on us, and a busy day ahead, I somehow settled on taking it to the do-gooder's at the animal hospital. I fetched a crate and my leather gloves, all the while my daughter's attention was fully fixed. By the time we returned to the injured bird, its ship had sailed. I was relieved, not truly looking forward to taking it to a team of white coat professionals.
You see, the turkeys in Asheville proper are of a more residential nature than wild. With no true predators to pick off the weak (survival of the fittest does not apply here, even the not-so-fit have a good chance of passing on their DNA) populations have become a borderline nuisance. Yes, they are charming enough when they aren't pillaging your blueberry crop or eying your cherry tomatoes, but I can't say I was utterly heartbroken at the loss of one less pesky turkey.
This said, seeing any creature face its final moments has a way of stirring a little melancholy. I wish it had thrived, despite my pervious thoughts on the matter. I wish it had shaken off its early morning run-in with my hound and gotten back to gleaning bugs from grass and entertaining the young humans of the world (my daughter regards them as nothing short of magic).
But here we were with a freshly passed turkey sprawled in the yard, the sun warming the air and the flies honing in on the scene. I hadn't even had my morning tea. I grabbed a shovel and dug a hole deep enough to keep any wild curiosities at bay. We plucked a rose of sharon bloom and placed it with the turkey who's soul had clearly flown.

(My daughter grabbing the last fistfuls of burial dirt)

Turkey often finds its way to our dinner plate, so why the special vigil? I guess because death is sacred by way of life being so, whether an animal looses it's life to fortify another or by other means. The exchange of an animal's flesh for ours to prosper is also sacred, though this turkey was not intended for dinner. Its fate was interrupted by my dog's primal instincts. Maybe he was doing his part to strengthen the flock? Maybe he just got lucky. Either way, we made some room for the heavenly angels to take another soul to the promised land, to have its broken wings restored, and to make us thankful for yet another day here in this fragile world we call home.

Monday, July 23, 2012

French Guinea with Balsamic Peach Chutney

First you must find someone who raises French guineas, for this, look no further than East Fork Farm. These are not the standard guineas you are thinking of, usually found perched on the beams of just about every drafty barn. Less common French guineas are fantastic meat birds yielding dark meat with rich stores of flavorful yellow fat. Fruit is the prefect match for this bird, spooned warm over each bite. The summery sweetness of fresh peaches reduced with tangy balsamic is by far the way to go. A hint of basil finishes things off right.
Let us raise a glass to summer, to peaches, to special fowl, and to our adored agriculturists.

French Guinea with Balsamic Peach Chutney:
*1 fresh French guinea
*1 sweet onion, quartered
*3 whole garlic cloves
*sea salt and pepper
*1/2 cup high quality balsamic vinegar
*3 ripe peaches, peeled and chopped
*7-10 fresh basil leaves, bundled with cooking twine

Preheat oven to 400. Rinse guinea. Place in a parchment lined baking dish. Pat dry with paper towels. Place onion and garlic in chest cavity. Season bird with ample sea salt and pepper. Bake until cooked through and golden brown. Remove from heat and allow to rest while preparing chutney.

Place a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Add balsamic. Bring to very gentle simmer. Reduce heat until balsamic no longer bubbles but steams. Reduce by over half, swirling pan as liquid thickens. Add peaches. Increase heat to medium and simmer until peaches cook down and liquid thickens to a thick sauce. Add bundle of basil leaves to sauce and stir until completely wilted and fragrant. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Carve guinea and plate. Spoon chutney over meat. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Breakfast: Two Ways

This one goes out to all the granola bar people and their pop tart friends. Time to graduate to real breakfast. It's not as hard as it seems, even if you are a repeat offender with the snooze button.
Here are two delightful (and speedy) options for beginning the day. The components of the first recipe can be prepared over the weekend to have on hand for quickfire mornings, the next requires little more than frying an egg while making toast. The first meal of the day breaks your nighttime fast, break it well.

Breakfast Bowl:
*1 cup cooked oats (steel cut or rolled)
*1/4 cup cooked tricolor quinoa
*1 tablespoon nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew or sunbutter)
*1 tablespoon full fat plain yogurt (I use Cabot 10% Greek yogurt)
*1/2 ripe banana, mashed

Prepare a batch of oats over the weekend by presoaking overnight in slightly acidic water (add a splash of white vinegar or lemon juice) to help maximize flavor and digestibility. Drain soaked oats and rinse well before cooking. Use 1 to 1 1/2 cups water per 1 cup soaked oats. Simmer covered until liquid is absorbed. Add a tablespoon of butter to cooking liquid. Store in fridge to use for the week.
Cook quinoa in advance also using 2 cups cooking liquid for each cup of quinoa.

Place precooked oats in a saucepan over med low heat with a splash of water until heated through. Stir in remaining ingredients. Enjoy hot.
*Add fresh or dried fruit and your favorite nuts and seeds and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Open Face Summer Fried Egg Sandwich:
*1 slice thick cut sourdough or favorite bread
*1 fresh egg
*4 cherry tomatoes, quartered
*2 tablespoons feta cheese
*3 basil leaves, chopped

Place bread in toaster while setting a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Coat with butter. Crack egg into pan, flip once and turn off heat. Remove egg before yolk sets. Butter toast, place on a plate and top with the fried egg. Sprinkle with tomatoes, feta and basil.

*If time allows, crisp some pastured bacon or lamb sausage to enjoy alongside.

*No time for heating up the pan? Slather some really good bread or toast with half an avocado, sprinkle with goat cheese or feta and off you go. Just please, do yourself a favor and leave the Cheerios where they are.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Honey Wine

If poetry had a flavor, it would taste like mead. Real poetry, not the fluffy, white Zinfandel, Hallmark poetry.
Neruda's ink well may have been filled with mead. Rumi probably washed his feet in it. I'm not talking about just any mead either, but real, fine crafted honey mead, like the bottles from Fox Hill Meadery. This isn't the syrupy, teenage-basement-experiment mead. Their special reserve, made with local buckwheat honey and aged with oak, is (like some of the best balladry) heady, sultry, and intoxicating enough to get you into just the right amount of trouble.
Thanks to a friend who recently handed me a bottle, I have discovered the charity of honey coaxed to the very edge of its existence, lifted to heaven, bottled, and brought back to earth for the thirsty animals to swallow.