Friday, July 31, 2009

Homemade Rhubarb Ketchup

I enjoy making and serving foods that are usually thought of as store bought. Ketchup, which pairs so well with many summertime foods, is one of those usually store bought foods. Homemade Ketchup only vaguely resembles store bought and enhances nearly everything off the grill, including meat, poultry and vegetables. Instead of tomato ketchup everyone in my house is hooked on a rhubarb ketchup that we each make. There is usually some in the refrigerator from early spring when rhubarb is first available until it goes out of season in early fall.

The tangy sweetness makes it an ideal condiment. This recipe is merely a guide, we do not follow a recipe to make this so adjust agave and spices to your personal taste...or if you do not have rhubarb substitute for tomatoes.

Rhubarb Ketchup

Prep time 5 minutes

Total time 20 minutes

4 stalks rhubarb chopped

3 tablespoons agave nectar

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

small pinch of cloves

1 teaspoon molasses

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1.Place all ingredients in a medium sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Cook until ketchup gets thick, this will vary depending on the amount of water in the tomatoes but should take from 15-30 minutes. Continue tasting and adjust seasoning to taste.

2.Place mixture in a food processor and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Chill and use.


A couple people asked me today if I had seen the study that came out from the UK today stating that organic food had no nutritional benefit. I often question the idea of "certified organic" since in many cases the standards are questionable (why are we not shooting for biodynamic or something else beyond organic?) and are often not accessible to smaller farmers (since it costs money to get certified). When we had our restaurant Ruppert's we would answer the question "is everything here organic" by explaining that although many things were if we stuck to that rule we would not be able to use the greens, herbs and figs that we grew in our own city garden just blocks from the restaurant...or serve the baby leeks that one of our favorite organic farmers elderly neighbor grew. By unquestionably accepting the certification we would not be involved in the evaluation process but would be giving that decision making up to an entity in power to deem whether or not a certain food was certified or not.

Despite, I am certain that organic food is superior to most conventionally grown foods. Even more so if we get past nutrient content and acknowledge that we need to live in collaboration with the planet to be healthy (how is this not obvious??). I was further confused by the source of todays information because my favorite sources for up to date information about good food practices are from the UK, The Ecologist and The Guardian. So, as soon as I came home I read the headlines of the study released today and then I turned to the Guardian to see what they had to say. They articulated my thoughts and more, check out todays article "Good Reason For Going Organic".

Thursday, July 30, 2009

food oasis

Yesterday I continued an ongoing discussion with Janis Jibrin, a good friend and the lead nutritionist for Bob Greene's Best Life Diet. Janis initially got me involved in the Best Life Diet. Since I started working with her on this project we have had endless conversations about the difficulty of finding fresh produce and basic ingredients in many parts of the country.

Ideally the problem of obesity and diabetes should be dealt with on the front end eliminating the need for prescription on the back end... If fast and convenience foods are the only food choices available there is no opportunity to experiment with raw ingredients or at least choose what we enjoy and not be told what we enjoy.

I rely on a mesh work of mediocre and high end grocery stores, fantastic farm markets, a CSA, specialty stores and my own garden for food. These resources are not distributed equitably throughout the city. Even two separate stores of the same grocery chain do not necessarily offer equal quality produce in two different neighborhoods. Relative to other parts of the country such as Detroit the situation in DC is not dire. I know that in some parts of the country none of these options for are available.

Of course the goal in making fresh food available is ultimately improving health. The Green Carts program in New York City and Will Allen's urban farming projects open opportunities to encounter raw ingredients in areas that were previously food deserts.

I wonder why in every neighborhood in New York there are bodegas selling fresh fruit and vegetables while in other urban and rural areas produce is scarce. The issues may be one of culture more than anything--when school systems ban home baked goods in response to wide spread peanut allergies (instead of asking for things baked at home for school consumption to be free of peanuts) we should read this as a sign that our culture privileges corporations and their food over individually produced food and our own choices.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

smell the flowers

Photo Rodney Bailey

Like usual I have flowers, cooking and gardening projects going. Today I stopped by one of the container gardens that I planted this season to see how things were looking. I ended up trimming a large disheveled looking scented geranium plant. After the first snip I realized that what I had planned to discard would enhance the brides bouquet that I am making and the extra leaves would add flavor to vegan shortbread I will use for a magazine photo shoot later this week. Immediately I went to get a container of water so I could keep the cuttings fresh and use them for these purposes.

I am sensitive to the odor of flowers. My front garden plot is full of herbs, we all run our hands across the lavender, lemon balm, mint…as we walk by to catch a whiff. I use these herbs in both cooking and flower arrangements and many of the other flowers that I get from my own garden and other sources are full of smell. However I often put a flower up to my nose that I expect to be fragrant and instead discover it is scentless. Most grocery store roses are without scent while the ones from my garden and others that I get from small growers are gloriously scented. I did a little research and learned about a few different factors that impact scent. From what I understand scent is made up of many different biochemicals that the plant produces. This make up in concert with optimal atmospheric conditions creates scent. Some atmospheric conditions such as pollution causes of loss of scent in flowers. Also it seems that many flowers are bred to last long, to withstand lots of travel time and once this is achieved scent is often sacrificed. This is a familiar story and brings to mind the mid winter supermarket tomato that looks like a tomato but does not necessarily taste like a tomato.

This season I had a couple of events where scent was a priority. A recent bouquet was composed of garden roses, gardenias and scented geranium…yes it was beautiful but also it achieved the goal of being deeply fragrant. During the summer season I will continue to search out richly scented flowers and foods.

Monday, July 27, 2009

MFK Fischer

When we had Rupperts we read MFK Fischer lots, everything we could find, and then re-read it. For several years I have read none. Recently returning to these familiar essays with new perspective they are still precious and unique. Last night I was re-captivated by one entitled, "When a Man Is Small". It is directly on target with my current thoughts about eating, nutrition and pleasure. Although I had consciously forgotten the contents I can't help but wonder if this particular essay influences my current practice and that I have subconsciously been considering it since my original reading years ago.

MFK Fischer discusses how our relationship with food both intellectually and physically changes as we age. She refers to La Rochefoucauld's aphorism: "To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art." Fischer talks about the mindless sensuality of over eating and references Epicurus: "the intelligent enjoyment of the pleasures of the table."

I recommend anyone interested in the art of eating to read "The Art of Eating".


If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution.

Emma Goldman

We went to a Dance Recital tonight and this quote kept playing in my head as I watched our ten year old dance her heart out.... We had been gardening the hours prior to the recital–setting up containers upon containers of seedlings for space undetermined. This brings me joy: the idea that we can plant things, share live things almost anywhere we can find a patch of soil. Marking the in-between-places, not as some grand gesture of Change or Sustainability but an offering of the practice of living things. We prepare to live outside the grid. Not completely outside the grid but a percentage. Grow a percentage of our own food. This is not a radical act nor a great one, only the expression of life. We realize that we are not putting ourselves in harms way as graffiti artists did in the eighties–tagging private property–pushing us to the question: is there such a thing as public space? You see, we don't feel the need to chase after danger in search of notoriety, but what we do see is that the ways and means are very much a part of the purposes. Like the author of the above quote, we agree, that if we separate the ways and means from purpose to establish ends, then we are doing nothing more than proselytising a new religion.

"If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution" reframes the very notion of revolution by taking into account the importance of play. Play in the sense of free play and in terms of slack or room to move. Over a hundred and fifty years ago as Michael Pollan reminds us, we had this Darwinian Revolution, the revolution of a perspectival shift that rendered the very notion of revolution into evolution. From Darwin AND Goldman, we feel the importance of practice, play and pleasure AND to leave behind the in-between-spaces would result in the belief in Miracles. That is to say: something out of nothing and we all know the nature of things is so much wonderfully MORE!

Saturday, July 25, 2009


“Eat your greens!” Only with us it's "Where’s your green?" You see, as chefs who develop dishes and plan menus, a main course is not complete unless there are greens built-in on some level. For example a black bean burrito will have raw spinach incorporated, a curry may have savoy cabbage, sushi needs a seaweed salad, a roasted chicken pairs with collard greens.

Habits are unthinking repetitive action–and after years of coming up with dishes and thinking "Where’s the green?" I can honestly say that I don’t think about it, I just automatically include a form of greens in almost every dish–to the point where a pizza is not complete without a salad.

This time of year we grow and eat a lot of a green called Callaloo. Also known as Vegetable Amaranth, Callaloo is the main ingredient of a West Indian Dish of the same name. The dish Callaloo contains Okra and Taro and is also thought of as a "Jamaican Gumbo". Callaloo the green is slightly sweet and has a subtle corn-like flavor. It should be cooked almost immediately after picking. Callaloo is a favorite summer green, which is good because it grows like a weed here, as the summers are much like that of Jamaica, only with out the gorgeous clear waters of the Caribbean...

Tonight we ate Callaloo (the green) simply roasted with grape seed oil, salt and pepper, John rolled some whole wheat noodles and I made a red bean spread flavored with some herbs and about a dozen roasted bunching onions from our garden.

Greens help us practice dietary needs, enjoyment of flavors and where our food comes from. Simply put, demands and desires. From this perspective of intertwined nutrition, eating and gathering, we begin to see that health, aesthetics and food ethos create a tension and it is that tension that helps us all become better cookers as well as eaters, gardeners as well as neighbors.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Flower Collaboration

Photo Rodney Bailey

While I was doing flowers at our restaurant Rupperts we often travelled to Europe, mostly Paris where would eat at places like Pierre Gagnaire to experience just what three Michelin stars means. I would also always check out George V to see what they were doing with their flowers in the lobby as well as my favorite small neighborhood flower shops and Christian Tortu. Looking back I feel this had a profound effect on my designs.

Of course this was the Nineties and everything was highly stylized, however you could always count on the floral designer at George V to keep thing simple–Abundantly Simple. The color schemes, the use of huge bunches of the same flower and the simple tying off of bunches and laying them slanted in a vase.

I basically did three arrangements at the restaurant: One in each of the two rest rooms and a large arrangement either in the front or the middle of the dinning room... I liked the element of surprise once you got in the bathrooms and also the idea that one could experience the flowers in solitude.

My arrangements at first were mostly greens and whites and if I used color I did not stray to far from monotone... I still find an abundance of one type of flower completely satisfying...

Most of my flowers are now used for weddings and other special events. Often I am forced outside of the simplicity I cherish. I still use local and seasonal flowers carefully sourced from a variety of growers. However I often find that some of my greatest pleasure comes from a collaboration between myself and the client. A recent request for a garden wedding, where specific varieties of flowers and scent were more important than color, led me to subtle beautiful arrangements that are among some of my favorites that I have done this season. Next weekend I am doing a colorful wedding...although mixing the vibrant hues of late summer flowers is not the direction that I naturally go I am excited to work with this bright color palette. I look forward to preparing arrangements that will result in a collage of the brides and my own likes and dislikes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Visit In The Garden

Earlier this month a group of ten first graders were walking by our house and wanted to know about our herb garden and the tomato patch we planted at the abandoned lot next door. I said hello and encouraged each of them to grab a tomato.

Well, at about eleven o’clock this morning Tanina, a summer counselor in the midst of a career change came knocking on my door. “Can we bring 10 first graders here to see where food comes from?” Tanina was very persuasive as someone who controls first graders should be. She asked if 1:30 would be OK–I said sure not knowing exactly what to expect.

We have been talking about starting a teaching garden at a nearby Kipps school. Also I have been contacted about an orchard at Eastern High School… We have talked extensively about how, what, when and why we would want to do something like this… we know we want to. I actually plant gardens with families in Chevy Chase and Georgetown and would like to extend this practice to those who cannot afford it.

Tanina showed up at exactly 1:30 we began in the herb garden and explained how we cook with Herbs. They passed around lemon verbena, basil and smelled the thyme and rosemary… A “yuck” was screamed as someone bit into raw sage…

We then went to the back yard and talked about fig trees and making fig preserves in mid August when the figs become ripe. These kid’s eyes got big as saucers as Tanina led them a little, “Mr. John you mean you get on a ladder and pick all this fruit?” The children asked a million questions all at once–so exited. My garden, all of the sudden, seemed like the most magical place to ME!

I took them down to the burnt out garage where we have a vegetable garden. We picked tomatoes, Pulled carrots and plucked strawberries. I took everything we picked inside to wash and peel…

John at this point pulls out the warm farm composter and explains how we put our kitchen scraps in to feed the worms and the food that moves through the worms, creates soil and nourishment for the vegetables. The kids all hold out there hands, as they want to hold a worm…

I walk out with a tray of sliced fruit and vegetables, washed and sliced. The same food they have just picked now they are going to taste… Tanina explains, “This is just a taste not a snack-–save some for everybody...” “these carrots are so sweet” a child exclaims.

We walk to the front and Bob Wollam, my local flower farmer pulls up and his van is brimming with zinnias, rudbeckia, dahlia, hydrangea… he invited all the children in the van, “Oooo, it smells good in here” He cuts a path so the Children walk in the side door and out the back door… One of the Counselors says, “Mr. Bob you remember me?” It seems he used to have a community garden in Shaw where he would encourage the kids in the neighborhood to garden with him… Now he is passing out flowers to their children…

This was the perfect day for us, for none of this was planned and none of this was an accident, however the meshwork of necessity and aleatory leads us in our pleasure and our practice…

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Practice Exchange

Last Thursday I was scheduled to give a talk on Starting a Late July Garden at Greater Goods. This was good because it was late July and bad because in late July not a lot of people are around, but good because my talk was turned in to a round table in which we all exchanged practices…

A Practice Exchange makes so much more sense to me than a talk. The latter requires someone to assume the hierarchical position of expert with information descending upon their listeners. Lets face it, I can only be an expert on My practice and for me to pretend otherwise would just be foolish. This does not mean I should not share my experiences, in fact quite the opposite–I share with others in order to encourage a dialogue, an exchange.

Three Things I learned last Thursday:
  1. DC is giving out rain barrels at 10% of their cost
  2. The contact of a Bee Keeper who can help us get started–we hear the Fairmont Hotel has a Hive on their roof, we plan to do the same…
  3. That the DC government is testing the soil on all community gardens–very interesting that this is a priority, However I am curious to the results and hope they are shared.

The three thing I think I was able to contribute to the conversation:
  1. Planting lettuce should not be thought of as ‘precious’, plant seeds closer together (like grass). Plan on harvesting your crop of lettuce, digging up the roots, amending the soil and reseeding often.
  2. You can plant most things you planted in the spring for a fall crop as well as traditional fall vegetables such as root vegetables, cabbage, brussel we planted sorrel, parsnips and caraflex cabbage seeds. Herbs are always a great place to begin for a new gardener.
  3. If you are having trouble getting chard started, try soaking seeds before planting. I learned from some Amish Farmers that Johnny's Seeds are a great resource.
Most of all Water, Feed and Weed

"It's My Own Invention"

After a while the noise seemed gradually to die away, till all was dead silence, and Alice lifted up her head in some alarm. There was no one to be seen, and her first thought was that she must have been dreaming about the Lion and the Unicorn and those queer Anglo-Saxon Messengers. H o w- ever, there was the great dish still lying at her feet, on which she had tried to cut the plum-cake. "So I wasn't dreaming after all," she said to herself, "unless — unless we're all part of the same dream. Only I do hope it's my dream, and not the Red King's. I don't like belonging to another person's dream," she went on in a rather complaining tone; " I've a great mind to go and wake him, and see what happens."

Lewis Carrol, Through the Looking Glass

My Grandmother, a Russian immigrant, ran a Catering Company on the Southside of Philadelphia. My Mother owned and worked a Catering Company in the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC. I went to law school, passed the Pennsylvania bar and now pretty much run a Catering business.

When we do our Home Restaurants my ten year old, Martin Lane, works with us. We have done five now and she has begun to fall into a rhythm, choosing jobs she likes. “I’m going to bubble the water now…” as she grabs the penguin shaped water sparkling machine, click, press, squeak… Her enjoyment seems to come from knowing what she is doing and getting a thing done before being asked or worse someone telling her what to do. She takes on authorship of everything she creates for better or for worse, and like Alice through the Looking Glass, we feel her not wanting to belong to anyone else’s dream, so she makes it her own dream.

Martin Lane has made cornbread for our last three Home Restaurants. We use a recipe given to us by John’s Mom, that has changed over the years. John’s family is from Georgia and will tell you that only Northerners put sugar in the cornbread. ML is psyched to cook her Grandmother’s recipe even if she will not eat any.

ML and I are both Vegan so I have changed this recipe when we are eating. However, in the Home Restaurant, we have been making the “authentic”, that is to say with buttermilk and amazing Farm Fresh eggs and butter. At the last dinner we wanted to make the cornbread extra crusty and super moist as it was being served as the protein of a dish with summer salad (another southern favorite of marinating tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions all from the garden in vinegar). The Bread had to be perfect in order to pull off such a simple dish. Martin Lane mixed an Amazing batter and when it hit the hot cast iron skillet that had been heating in the oven for over an hour, you could tell it was going to be a good one.

It is fun to watch ML cook and experiment with food–even foods she does not eat. She seems to take more care with things like eggs. She is pretty much fearless in the kitchen and if she does not like something she will let you know!

We began a discussion the next day on whether the Vegan Cornbread was better than the “Authentic”. We decided to have a taste test to find out exactly what the differences were, of course with John doing the tasting…

He said the Vegan was much more meatier or bouncier and maybe even moister while the “Authentic” was cakier, not dry at all… The big difference was the crust… the non-vegan made an amazing dark golden brown crust. John said he would be happy with either one of these slices-–However we must keep in mind this recipe comes from his Mama and these cornbreads as he says are his “Proustian Madeleines-–In Search of Lost Time AND Remembrance of Things Past…a little of both, please.”


1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg beaten
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 oz melted butter (plus about 1/2 oz. extra set aside for pan)

1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place heavy bottom 9 inch skillet (preferably cast iron in the hot oven for at least 20 minutes to heat thoroughly).
2.Combine all ingredients and wisk until they are thoroughly incorporated.
3.Pull hot skillet out of the oven and working quickly so skillet stays hot add 1/2 oz butter and coat the bottom of the pan. Immediately pour batter in skillet and place back in the oven. Bake until golden brown and is slightly springy to the touch, about 20 minutes.
4.Remove from oven and remove from pan. Cornbread is delicious hot just out of the oven or at room temperature.

Vegan Cornbread

1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups almond or soy milk
1/4 cup pureed silken tofu
1 1/4 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 oz melted non hydrogenated margarine such as Smart Balance (plus about 1/2 oz. extra set aside for pan)

1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place heavy bottom 9 inch skillet (preferably cast iron in the hot oven for at least 20 minutes to heat thoroughly).
2.Combine all ingredients and wisk until they are thoroughly incorporated.
3.Pull hot skillet out of the oven and working quickly so skillet stays hot add 1/2 oz of margerine and coat the bottom of the pan. Immediately pour batter in skillet and place back in the oven. Bake until light golden brown and cornbread is slightly springy to the touch, about 20 minutes.
4.Remove from oven and remove from pan. Cornbread is delicious hot just out of the oven or at room temperature.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Last Night

Last night 11 people ate dinner in our home... Old friends introducing New–Some who have eaten our food for years although we have never personally met AND some New Friends who are leaving for big adventures AND some who are staying right here...

This time of year all produce comes from either our garden or local farms. Beef and beautiful Poussins are delivered by Bev of Eco Friendly Farms. We get a whole lot of help from Tom of Potomac Selections in the wine pairings–The Tissot Cremant du Jura Indigene NV for the final courses was a DC premiere–Delicious, enhancing the sweet courses. Music was a mix of Prince and David Bowie that highlighted their similarities as well as their Rock and Roll singularities, pairings like “Kooks” by Bowie next to “Starfish and Coffee” by Prince–Happy to find Minnesotans in our group appreciate a Purple Ziggy mix. Enthusiasm is contagious…Thank You!


Home Ground Mini Burger with Bread and Butter Pickle and Rhubarb Ketchup on Sesame Buns (Veggie Burgers for the two vegetarian guests)
Basil Yukon Gold Mashed Potato
Wild Alaskan Salmon Roe on Zucchini Fritter with Chives

Lavender Martini
Chateau de Roquefort, Cotes de Provence Rose Corail 2008


Beet Soup with Poached Path Valley Egg with Horseradish Greens
Poppy Seed Onion Bread

Gilles Fevre Chablis 1er Fourchaume-Vaulorent 2006

Summer Salad with Cornbread

Domaine Du Carrou, Sancerre

Poussin with Leeks, Fennel, Chard, Wild Chantarelle Mushrooms and Black Barley (Royal Trumpet Mushrooms with Walnut in lieu of the Poussin for the Vegetarians)
Salted Baguette

Tissot Arbois Poulsard Sans Soufre 2005

Tome de Couserans with Nut Cracker and Arugula Sprouts

Raspberries with Shaved Maccha Ice

Tissot Cremant du Jura Indigene NV

Frozen White Peach with Chocolate Torte and Chocolate Torte

Cornmeal Rosemary Cookies, Chocolate Mint Rosemary Drops, Tiny Lavender Cakes

Photos by Jacqulyn Maisonneuve from a few Home Restaurants ago...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Giving The Finger Bowl

Tired after a long day of cooking. Gratified by the enthusiasm and sheer wonderfulness of our guests–we sit at the kitchen table, again. Thankful that our hard work will lead to more hard work. Our conversation surprisingly turns to the only non-food course we served tonight–the finger bowls.

We used finger bowls for the first time in our 15-year collaboration. I don’t know why we haven’t before; we have always encouraged diners to eat with their hands. Our hesitation was probably based on a fear that we would run the risk of being tagged pretentious. Eating with your hands is of course fine but to offer a bowl of water with scented flowers to wash fingertips would certainly be criticized.

Tonight our guests loved the finger bowls we served! I put lavender, hydrangeas and rose pedals in glass bowls I found in upstate New York.

Here is the thing­–we never offered finger bowls during our eight year stint at Rupperts Restaurant. We were catching so much attention for describing at length everything on the menu. And although John’s experience in restaurants would assume finger bowls we couldn’t waste our diner’s attention on describing one more non-food related thing.

At the home restaurants I am afforded the luxury of explaining every course as it sits in front of the guest and being that we are in my home everyone is happy to listen. We served poussin tonight, a chicken younger than 28 days from Bev’s Eco-Friendly farms. John suggested that he would much prefer to roast the chickens whole and then split them in two. He has always preferred to cook the chicken with their bones in that the flavor is much richer in a chicken roasted with bones. Also to allow the guests to chew on and even partake in the marrow of the bones. We decided that if we let the diners know before hand, at the presentation of the birds, that there would be finger bowls after their main courses they would be free to eat with their hands–pick it up!

Because of the finger bowls and the forum to explain them, we were able to cook chicken better than we would have if constrained by the need to conform to just a knife, fork and napkin. John said that the poussin tonight were the best he had ever cooked. As chefs not only are we concerned with taste but also in how something is going to be eaten and the eaters comfortability with in the eating. This non-food pause, intermission or should we say interaction opened up possibilities for us tonight that resolved a long standing dilemma of how to better serve something that we have been serving for 15-years.

Cooking in small quantities on our home turf has unlocked many things for us. We have guests who are amazingly happy to be here and we are comfortable adapting to specific needs and trying new things. We are doing pretty much what we began 15 years ago, finding the best ingredients and doing as little as possible to let the food shine, only this time with out a lot of the pressure of being in the public eye and in return we may have let go of a certain amount of self-editing or self consciousness. If we run the risk of being called “pretentious”, so be it–we are enjoying feeding people too much to care...

We googled “finger bowls” and found these two items, One is a New York Times Article from 1909–hilarious, you have to read it and the Other is a video of a professor of etiquette from George Washington University, who we want to try and get for a dinner lecture here…

Locavore's Dilemma

Photo by Martin Lane Cochran
Locavore is the name of an eater who chooses only locally grown food. I wonder how rigid a practice one would have to adhere to in order to accept this tag? Do you leave behind coffee, chocolate and the various oils and vinegars that are grown by artisan farmers around the world? This time of year I try and gather most of my fruits and vegetables either from my garden or a local farmer. An exception I make (along with young coconuts, coffee, chocolate…) is Lemons. The reason I make this exception IS because the local veggies are so good and lemon vinaigrette compliments the fresh garden flavors without over powering. Balsamic, rice wine, sherry vinaigrettes are fantastic–I am a vinegar fanatic and in the Off-Season I will need their help exciting palettes, being that I will be cooking with locally grown turnips and other seasonal root vegetables. However in the summer in what would seem to be the optimal time to experiment with locavorism, I am not giving up lemons.

Locavorism of course leads to larger political, ethical and ecological questions. The question is really one of moderation and excess. How far does one take a perceived duty in a fanatical adherence to a chosen “vorism”? Is one really solving any problems or just creating more of the same in the single approach solution? AND Is that fanaticism actually sustainable for the individual or would one burn out on turnips in January?

I think that Sarah Murray’s book Moveable Feast does a wonderful job in pointing out that there are many things to consider along with the Proximity of where your food comes from. She seems more concerned with a kind of ethical as well as ecological cost benefit analysis that takes into consideration that we actually do live in a globalized world. Sarah Murray encourages us to think in terms of ecological “best practices” that take into consideration many of the poverty stricken areas that benefit from exporting food. She makes the point that shipping maybe be more ecologically advantageous than growing green house tomatoes and driving them into an urban area.

At a recent TED talk, Louise Fresco lays out the problems with financially advanced nations abandoning globalization in the immediate aftermath of forcing globalization. There are ethical issues to address and if we develop a protectionist approach as a by product of eating practices in the name of Sustainability, then at one point we are going to have to ask the question: What are we sustaining? The earth? Humankind? Our immediate surroundings? Problems?

Ultimately what led to our current crisis, be it ecological or economical or epidemical is the idea that we can locate problems and then solve them. That is to ignore that the solution is already built into the problem and that solution will only cause more or the same problems. “I knew an Old Lady who swallowed a dog. She swallowed the dog to catch the cat…” Our very approach to crisis and problems may be the problem.

The idea of problematizing a problem would not be politically expedient for politicians but to play with a problem and turn it inside and out to the point of discovery, that is to say something that has not been thought, something external to the problem and its solution. Practices that experiment with demands and desires separate from solving problems lead us outside of endless loops. (See Seoul Day Lighting)

In the meantime, Nothing beats an mélange of baby vegetables lightly roasted and tossed with fresh greens just picked. I don't want to disrupt these flavors–I want to accentuate them and nothing does this better in the summer than a Lemon Vinaigrette with a touch of mustard and fresh herbs like basil or chives…

And needless to say: look for a lemon grown with the “best practice” possible…

Lemon Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons Lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon style mustard
6 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Friday, July 17, 2009

Making Senses

Photo by Jacqulyn Maisonneuve
We don’t use butter or cream in any of the savory dishes we prepare. This was a decision based on the idea, that if you found the best ingredients, you would not need to mask any flavors or textures with heavy sauces. This decision was also based on the premise that if one ate less dairy one felt better and the aesthetic as well as the nutritional experience was heighten.

Cream and butter are often used as flavors, as something you enhance a dish with, maybe even a vehicle for other more seasonal ingredients. This never made sense to us, that is to say, we always felt seasonal ingredients did not need the mellowing or tamping down that butter and cream offer, in the finishing, of lets say, soups or sauces. We have always enjoyed the greenness, the freshness of so-called unfinished soups or sauces and in this we developed our own style.

Using Cream, as a main ingredient itself is something we do and with an idea of moderation, we have always enjoyed serving ice cream incorporated into, lets say, a fruit dessert. It’s interesting because even as a vegan, I see no Inconsistency with this practice, that is to say there is a level of purity that we adhere to when discovering and using raw ingredients. The same goes for eggs, as we will be serving a poached egg as a main ingredient Saturday night.

However to not use Butter and Cream in our starters and mains allowed us to slip away from the traditional continental cooking that John had been trained under in Michelin Starred establishments in Europe. The collaboration of John and I gave us the opportunity to Experiment. We were into the purity of ingredients but not the purity of a particular cuisine. This tension of purity and experimentation maybe the thing that generates our creations more than anything. The leaving behind of authenticity and the moving toward a experimenting with purity helps us to think aesthetics and nutrition not divorced from one another, not mutual exclusive but as a non-dual truth, that is to say something that is apparently distinct while not being separate.

Aesthetics as an awareness of the senses seems fair enough, however nutrition as an awareness of the senses seems a stretch to many. We would say that if you feel bad after eating then no matter how good the food tastes the aesthetic experience did not end with the tasting and that the feeling afterwards counts as much. We would also say that to divorce sense from nutrition would leave us in a place of only being able to gauge our health through reason and not experience. Most of the time our greatest nutritional allies are our senses. The thing is, nutrition is gauged by how our body reacts to affects and aesthetics are gauged by how our mind reacts to affects, we would say that this dualism needs to be collapsed and that there is no separation of body and mind And To listen to how your body feels in the rational decisions to enjoy food is a learned process.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Brooklyn and Manhattan

We have been asked a few times this summer to send along some recommendations of restaurants/shops in NYC that influence, inspire or make us think and are a few of our favorite places and let us know what we are missing. These are only shops and restaurants we will do a post soon of our favorite art spaces, parks...

Marlow and Sons is the only place to eat in Williamsburg…

Pure Food and Wine a fantastic Raw Restaurant…also check out the carry out around the corner, One Lucky Duck...

Punjabi–Great Veggie Place, Pakistan Food–where the cabbies go!

Eli's on third and Vinegar Factory on 91st, Eli Zabar’s kingdom in the Upper East Side– a food lover’s haven…

Murrays Cheese in West village the best, we used to buy from them when we had Rupperts…

Difara's pizza, people line up for hours, a great place–way out, almost in Coney Island definitely a food safari expedition…

Dual Speciality Store spices, great place to stock up on hard to find ingredients and spices

Vanessa's Dumplings is always our first stop! Do not miss the Sesame Pancakes! Only go to the one in the Lower East Side...

Caracas Arepas–check out the take away next to the Bar...

Zaragoza, a grocery/taqueria on Avenue A between 13th and 14th Sts. Has amazing pig ear tacos! But no website...

Kajitsu in East Village--The purity is inspiring in this Japanese Vegan Cuisine…

Stogo Vegan ice cream in east village...

Roberta’s Pizza in Bushwick...

Hangawi–Korean Vegan, we are here every Christmas Night...

North East Kingdom in Bushwick nice out of the way restaurant…

Kosars Bialy in Lower East Side stay away from the bialys and go for the sesame sticks!

The Pickle Guys in Lower East Side–great on-line ordering as well...

Babycakes Lower East Side–vegan cupcakes always our second stop after Vanessa's Dumplings!

Flea Market in Brooklyn Sat and Sun, DUMBO indoors on Sunday—Outdoors in Fort Greene on Saturday with great food..favorites–Central American, portable pizza guy and the Raw Chocolate Sorbet...

Gimme Coffee--in Williamsburg and Soho...

Joes Coffee near Washington Park...

9th street espresso in East Village!

Oslo Coffee...

La Esquina–great set up--use of space–have to see!

Casa Mono near Union Square–Tapas with a ham bar next door…

Blue Stocking Indy Book Store–good guerrilla gardening section...

St. Mark’s Book Shop, independent Book Store in East Village...

Eleven, an amazing second hand store in NOLITA...

Assembly in LES–the store is much different than the website–fashion store great setting...

IF, if Dries Van Noten and Martin Margiela appeal this is your store, and yes they have Mens!

Nom de Guerre…underground feeling, worth seeing fashion for men...

Takashimaya only reason besides Bryant Park and Eli’s to go past 14th street…

Jutta Neuman–They make things–shoes!

Muji, only because we don’t have one in DC, yet!

Kinokuniya, Amazing Japanese Bookstore with teashop on second floor...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Upcoming Greater Goods Talk, Thursday July 16

Photo- Jacqulyn Maisonneuve

My joy from the garden comes through the many variables, watching a slug eat a leaf as much as finding the first ripe tomato of the summer. I am intrigued by the fact that one year we have more eggplant than we can use and the next year we get 5 eggplants total. Success is in the enjoyment of the process rather than measuring the yield. This time of year our work is informed by our garden. While cooking and arranging flowers there are continual trips with scissors both to the front and back yard to gather additional ingredients. This continues somewhat throughout the year. Mid-winter we can still cut rosemary to add to something we are cooking or a stalk of bay leaves to add to a flower arrangement but right now the possibilities seem endless. Wandering outside I might find a branch from a blueberry bush that finishes a flower arrangement or a few leaves of borage that enhance a salad.

In Washington July is the mid-point of the productive garden season. Sometimes around this time of year I experience some garden fatigue which is diminished by the discovery of the first cucumber, harvesting lemon grass from the front yard or watching the birds eat the first ripe figs of the season. Mid-summer can also be overwhelming in the garden…the neat rows that were planted in the spring may not be distinguishable. Holes start to appear once the early summer crops finish their productive cycle. There is still lots of potential left and a large variety of crops that can be planted now and for the next few weeks from seed for late summer, fall and early winter harvest. I will be planting salad and cooking greens, cabbage, brussel sprouts, carrots, beans, parsnips, onions and some fall squash that I started a few weeks ago. I am particularly excited about a variety of cabbage called Caraflex that is tear dropped shaped. I need to get the seeds ordered from Johnny's Seeds and get them in the ground in the next few weeks.

On Thursday evening at 8:00 I am giving a talk at Greater Goods about July in the garden. I am going to discuss what I am doing in my garden and the other gardens we planted this spring. Yesterday I got a call about planting a late summer vegetable garden and we will start next week…it is not too late! This list helps orient me when I am trying to figure out how to proceed in the garden this time of year.

1.Make an assessment. What is working? What is not?
2.Make a plan for the rest of the season.
3.Order seeds if necessary or contact local plant stores to see what they have and will be getting in.
4.Fertilize- top dress crops that are growing or work organic material into soil where you are replanting.
5.For crops that will continue to produce throughout the summer treat problems such as bugs eating leaves, not enough water, not enough sun….
6.Weed and water!
7.Monitor closely so you do not miss ripe vegetables. Certain vegetables such as cucumbers seem to go from immature to over ripe in a matter of hours.
8.Make certain that tall growing vegetable plants have enough support, Stake up or provide support with lattice.
9.Keep track of what works in your garden, varieties that thrive and those that do not…I can never remember year to year what was successful unless I write it down.
10.Enjoy the process and don’t concentrate only on the yield enjoy the experimentation and the many variables.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fishing Mission

Jim Chambers wants to spread the word! He will tell you he is on a mission and like missionaries he has pamphlets to pass out: Blue Ocean Institute Guide to Ocean Friendly Seafood.

He moseys up and plops down on a kitchen stool. “Did you know it takes 4 pounds of wild Salmon to raise one pound of farm Salmon?” Jim immediately takes on the Salmon farm fishing industry. He lays out the immorality of farm fisheries and when we get to level six, causing cancer, after moving from the immediate pollution problems of the farm (same as pigs) to the destruction of the entire species of salmon by farm escapees watering down genes in the wild, we make the mistake of asking, “What kind of Cancer?” “THE KIND THAT KILLS YOU! What do you mean what kind of cancer?” The last thing he wants is to get mired in an anthropocentric conversation about cancer–there is an ocean to be saved!

We jump to a conversation on how Grouper change from female to male and how these fish use the tide and moving water to keep the coral reef from devouring their eggs. There is an aggressive Male that watches over the flock–the fishermen know this, pluck him and you have the whole flock…Jim has a MA in fishing science from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and worked for thirty five years in the federal government at the National Marine Fisheries Service. His job was to protect marine wildlife, as he says, from the Army Corp of Engineers. "They would propose an oil rig in the Chesapeake Bay and then we would have to convince everyone just how stupid this was." It seems for Jim things are very simple and humans complicate things with their great ideas and self importance, you can feel him convey a message of keep it simple, things are bad but they are going to be OK. In the mean time enjoy some WILD fish.

Jim retired from the federal government in 1999 and opened Prime Seafood five and a half years ago. He started working with Robert Wiedmaier of Marcel’s and then had the chef introduce him to some of his cheffing buddies… Jim wants you to know that being a Locavore when it comes to seafood may not be such a good idea, For 350 years we have been depleting the Eastern Atlantic water of fish and besides the regulating of Wild Rockfish we have not been careful about it. “Look not to eat Alaskan WILD Salmon when they are in season would just be a mistake.” It’s a no brainer!

Jim tells of a Cobia farm off the shores of Panama and plans of his to start an importing business that flies fish from the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua–a deal that was done until the economy crashed… How does Jim stay in business in the summer: “follow the golfers, it took me five years to learn this” as if to say I study people now and their migrations and we need to change some of their habits. Just like that Grouper on the coral Jim is looking after his flock.

He brought us fresh Georgia shrimp with the heads on–this past Home Restaurant we grilled them up with just lemon juice and fresh herbs from the garden.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Practice of Readymades

Around about the same time the NGA showed an exhibition on Dada we bought a bottle dryer much like the one Marcel Duchamp showed as part of his ongoing experiments with what he called readymades. John had just finished a MFA in sculpture and we were all somewhat obsessed with this show and the thoughtful presentation of the effects of war and the critical stance of Dadaism.

We go to this place in Frederick Maryland that imports wonderful everyday objects from around the world that seem exotic to us here in the States. We have bought a beer house table from Germany that I work on. I plant in old English terra cotta pots–Also many Chinese boxes I use for flower arrangements. Currently we keep cooking-wood in an egg basket they imported from Eastern Europe. I find useful things there, as I am always looking to do flowers in unusual containers.

On one trip John became obsessed with the bottle dryer explaining the sculptural aspect, the Dada symbolism and the relationship of the 1990's to the period in between the two World Wars when Dadaism thrived. John will tell you, you can learn a whole lot more from Duchamp than you can from Plato … I have to say we were all pretty excited about this object in that we thought we had bought a meaningful piece of art for our house. Until recently this object languished in the basement.

The thing the readymades and what Dadaism did so well as a movement was to point to the visual beauty, the ridiculousness, the prosaic and the violence of everyday life. That is to say: it is what it is and isn’t that wonderful and horrible at the same time. The readymades have been described as "an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist."

In an absolute nostalgia for something that never existed for us we expose our post modern tendencies. For us to relate to a bottle dryer as an everyday object was silly. This was an everyday object of Duchamp's France. We were relating to the symbolism of a something that could never be everyday for us. We were relating to a (non)political art movement of the past. Marcel would be laughing at us. For us an everyday readymade object from our surburban Maryland upbringing, (as Jeff Koons exhibits) would probably be something like an upright vacum cleaner...

However as we started Home restauranting and making twice as much kombucha, we have discovered we need this bottle dryer. We reuse wine bottles and mason jars and NOW have a place for them to hang elegantly and dry. Unlike the Artist who peed in Duchamp's urinal a few years ago, our gesture is not symbolic but necessary. We may be getting that last laugh although for our 10 year old, Martin-Lane, this bottle dryer will be an everyday object…