Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cauliflower Soup

Cauliflower soup is one of our staple dishes. That is to say along with Basil Mash Potatoes, Red Lentils and Cilantro, White Mushrooms Chives and Lemons we love to eat it as well as prepare and share it... All of these are classic combinations of flavors that we have picked up from cooking, eating or reading–However Cauliflower soup is somewhat different in that it is based on a single ingredient. Of course there are more ingredients such as water and salt and pepper but the dish Cauliflower Soup is not set off by a combination of flavors. The success of this dish hinges on the complexity of flavors inherent in the Cauliflower itself.

The difference between Authenticity and Purity are evident with our approach to making Cauliflower Soup. Authenticity when it comes to food practices implies a recipe or culture that determines what is authentic or not. That is to say there is a proper way to make cauliflower soup. Purity here would be an acknowledging of ingredients and their potential by doing as little as possible to let Flavor shine. As Shaun Hill would say, "I am not interested in Authenticity, I am interested in Flavor...". A good cook works within the arrangement of what is given.

I take a head of cauliflower place in a pot and add about an inch or two of water. Then I steam until absolutely soft and I could mash with a fork. Next pour everything into a blender and begin to blitz. Add water to get just the desired texture, then season very slowly to taste. The danger here is when using one simple ingredient is over salting and peppering losing the complexity of flavor within the one simple ingredient...

Cauliflower served like this needs nothing else, it is buttery in texture with sweet and pungent cabbage like tone of flavor... John talks about a dish he had in France that serve a cold Beef Stock Jelly with a hot Cauliflower puree... And as a vegan I appreciate Cauliflower Puree as a sauce on Mushrooms and Green Beans...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Transition to Fall Flowers

From late spring until this week most of the cut flowers I used for events came from my own garden or Bob Wollam who has a farm in Virginia. Every morning I survey my own garden to see how everything is growing and if there are any flowers to be cut. I talk to Bob or others at his farm several times a week to see what they have available. It has been a good season that started with bulbs and then progressed to roses, peonies, fig branches, herbs, hydrangea, phlox, zinnia, dahlias...

This weekend as I examined my own garden there were only a couple of phlox, herbs and some late season roses to be picked. Similarly Bob's list had many items marked as limited and I know that the end of the local flower season is near. For so many reasons I enthusiastically use local flowers when they are available they are bright and beautiful, you can use flowers that are fragile since they do not need to travel far and ecologically it makes so much sense.

Luckily I have great non local flower options. During the months when I cannot get local flowers many of my flowers come from the Dutch Auction in Holland. Years ago I told my broker who bids on the auction for me that I was interested in getting only flowers that were grown with sound environmental and labor practices. He laughed at me and said, "Obviously". I did not know it at the time but the auction is actually a farmer owned cooperative. The flowers sold there are certified for both ecological and labor practices. Unlike in the United States where many of the flowers available still come from farms that use chemical pesticides and poor work conditions Europeans have long been able to buy organically grown flower and roses from farms with good labor practices.

The Dutch also happen to grow amazing flowers many of which cannot be gotten from anywhere else in the world. Since the late 1500's Holland has been obsessed with flower growing. Today there are still many varieties of flowers that you can only get from Holland.

This weekend I am doing a wedding at the Palomar Hotel in DC using deep oranges, greens, berries and lots of texture. I will get some flowers from Bob Wollams farm such as dahlias and hydrangeas but I will supplement them with my first recent shipment from Holland which will include asclepias beatrix, brezilia, snowberries, mango calla lilies, hypericum berries, kangaroo paws...

Just like seasonal cooking ingredients I look forward to the change of season when new varieties of flowers become available. Asclepias Beatrix and Brezillia are two of my favorites that I look forward to seeing when they arrive from the airport early Thursday morning. I am able to order Dutch flowers on Tuesday morning and have them arrive at my front door before I awake on Thursday. Although they need to travel from far away it is heartening to know that there are not additional environmental and labor costs associated with them.

Monday, September 28, 2009

An Egg eggs

No two people are exactly a like, as should no two eggs–be exactly alike–Look we would never decide to do a dish around an Egg unless we had discovered extraordinary eggs. Each different and wonderful, Whitmore Farm produces magical eggs that are brown, speckled and sometimes green. The eggs are multiple colors because the Whitmore chickens are varied breeds. Sadly, in the United States there are basically two types of chickens used to produce all commercial eggs–although over 100 breeds exist! All chicken that you eat from mainstream sources in this country is genetically identical and all the eggs are from one of two genetic species. Whitmore raises at least four different varieties: French Maran, Dutch Welsumer, Ameraucana and Delaware breeds.

The feed Whitmore grows chicken with is custom milled at a local grainary. William, the owner who was trained as a biochemist, came up with a feed recipe when he could not recognize all of the ingredients in off the shelf feed. After investigating he found that the commercial feed contained agricultural waste products, which basically means whatever is left over from various agricultural processes. He concocted a recipe after researching literature primarily published between 1910 and 1950, when grass feeding and heritage animals were the norm. Since chickens are omnivores, the feed includes fish as well as soy for protein, corn and wheat. Equally important is a chicken’s access to grasses full of antioxidants such as clover, dandelion and dock. This also accounts for the intense yellow color of the yolk. The chickens are housed in a moveable coop that is literally moved every day. This is so the grass is never over harvested by the chicken, which would result in the chickens walking around on dirt without access to grass to eat. Just because an egg is labeled free range it does not necessarily mean the chicken had access to grasses.

Farmers, gardeners and even those involved in the artisan processing of food (Bev Eggleston) are cheffing, that is to say involved either in the alchemic process of mixture or the skillful process of harvesting (knife skills). If the generating of food is thought of as a creative act, it is hard to think of where the cheffing actually begins or ends. When I receive eggs this amazingly produced through a process that is intensely thought about...How can I, as Chef, take credit that is well deserved elsewhere. Cooking that attempts to take place in a vacuum is either food Science-ing or radical acts of genius and we would not attempt either. It is this reason that we act in concert with others to generate dishes, sometimes using eggs as protein.

On Saturday night we served a poached egg in a tomato broth, walnut oil, sage and a tomato fondant. I made a broth by simmering whole tomatoes, stems included; I wanted to capture the entire distillation of these particular tomatoes. After I got the right concentration of tomatoes while leaving enough liquid to actually poach an egg, I passed the tomatoes, broth and all through a large strainer. Setting aside the broth, I then took the meat of the tomatoes and blitzed them in our Vitamix blender. This made an amazing paste that I passed through a fine sieve into a pot of about the same volume of onions. This tomato paste and onions cooked down for hours until I had a yummy fondant. Then I poached the egg in water (not the tomato broth more below) and when just cooked (no more than two minutes) I placed egg in hot tomato broth and sprinkle with about two strips of finely julienned sage and walnut oil, topped with fondant and served…

I cook the eggs in water and not the broth for I have more control with water without the various acids and so forth in the tomato broth. When these eggs hit the water the proofed up to almost twice the size–And to eat them was to almost eat the texture of bubbled air–They melted in your mouth thereby creating a texture that enhanced the broth, but at the same time allowed for both the flavor of the broth as well as the flavor of the egg to act upon each other textually and flavorfully without synthesizing. That is to say that at no time did you Not know you were eating an egg, as there are many uses of eggs that do just that… Tomato AND Egg AND Walnut Oil AND Sage…

We served with Homemade Walnut Bread AND (Villa da Filicaja) Chianti Superiore 2006 (thanks to Tom Kiszka for his selections)…

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Chicken of the Woods

We woke up and knew that we had to find mushrooms. Nineteen people were coming for dinner and we wanted to serve Black Cod with Beet (Greens) and Wild Mushrooms. We jumped in the car and started to head over to the Arlington Farmers market when we decided to check one of my favorite mushroom spots.

The woods are where I run and where I find mushrooms this time of year. Chicken of the Woods, Puffballs and Wild Oysters are just some of the varieties I find. On this morning when we walked into the woods and turned the bend in the path we saw a huge felled tree all a blaze with yellow and orange mushrooms.

Chicken of the Woods is a tricky mushroom. That is to say you need to find them before they become to dry on the log. Just right is when they are moist with the texture and bounce of cooked chicken. Even after cooking they have the texture of (over) cooked chicken with an intense woody mushroom flavor.

Black Cod has a buttery flavor and if cooked properly needs no sauce. We try to not season the fish too much in order to have the flavor resonate with what ever we are serving it with. By not using sauce with a fish like Black Cod one runs the risk of a seemingly over-prosaic dish. Fortunate for us we have diners that encourage the simpleness of dishes. Eaters who privilege complexity as always already flavors present in pure ingredients. (Especially when serving excellent wine–competition is not the point)

Really I think as chefs what we offer more than anything is the ability to think food and combinations of different ingredients as triggers that combine and contrast. Discovering and experimenting for us is not radical constructions of what we can or cannot do. Creating for us is a loose understanding of the arrangement and acting in a way that highlights the differences in ingredients whether they are textures, flavors or temperatures. Here is where we find combinations and how we can set difference next to difference and mine the in between spaces.

All of cooking is really logistics and how to get from one thing to the next at the perfect time. Flavors work the same way and style is really how we get from one flavor to the next. That is to say to enjoy the space (the taste or the flavor) between the Black Cod and the Beets and the Beet Greens and the Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms. Sauces sometimes tie things together or present dishes as seamless. Seamless-ness misses the differences or flavors and their ability to bounce off each other in their differences. We want diners to experience the combinations of difference–the encounter of foods on the eaters’ own terms…

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Poppy Seed and Onion Bread from the 25th

Last night we made Poppy Seed and Onion bread to go with Black Cod, Beet (Greens) and Wood Grilled Mushrooms. I have mentioned before that we used to travel to the Lower East Side every Christmas Morning to eat at the now closed Ratner's Dairy Kosher Restaurant. One of the reasons we would drive to NYC was the Onion Popy Seed rolls that would come and keep coming–served with Borscht or Eggplant they were soooo good!

Now we have found the Sesame Sticks at Kosar's to be a good replacement since Ratners closed. We grab pickles at The Pickle Guy around the corner and make sandwiches...

I guess what I am getting at is part of the fun of doing these Home Restaurants is that I can make specific types of bread for each dish. Where as in Our Restaurant we would make just Three types of bread that were served to everyone, now I can be very particular...

Last night we had a Lovely crowd and look forward to our largest crowd tonight, here is a PEEK at the menu for tonight–we are headed to the Farmers Market now so somethings are subject to change:


Basil Mashed Potatoes

Scallops with Sesame Cracker and Summer Squash

Lamb with Eggplant and Mint on Corncake

Lima Bean Soup with Summer Savory

Lemongrass Vodka Martini
(Ch. de Roquefort) Cotes de Provence ROSE 'Corail' 2008


Poached Egg in Tomato Broth
Walnut Bread
(Villa da Filicaja) Chianti Superiore 2006

Rockfish with Chicken of the Woods Mushroom, Beets and Beet Greens
Onion Poppy Seed Bread
(Gerard Boulay) Sancerre AOC 2007

Poussin with Noodle Fall Squash and Chestnut Gratin, Calaloo, Garlic Sauce
Roasted Garlic Bread
(Domaine Coston) Coteaux du Languedoc 2004

Leonora Goat Cheese
(Lopez de Heredia) Bosconia Rioja Reserva 2001

Fig Sorbet with White Chocolate Brownie
(Pierre Paillard) Brut Champagne Bouzy Grand Cru NV

Pear Crumble with Roasted Cashews and Frozen Armagnac Cream

Cookie Bites:
Chocolate Cake
Ginger Oatmeal Cookies
Coconut Macaroon

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rainy Day

We are on the way over to hangout with the pre-schoolers of Scott Montgomery Elementary. I thought I would share pictures of out last rainy day visit... Of course the photos are by Jacqulyn Maisonneuve–a Corcoran School of Art student working on her senior thesis...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I like horseradish but never thought about planting it. This spring I saw a few small plants at a new garden store on our side of town called Old City Green. We planted them and within weeks the leaves grew huge. From what I understand horseradish is a plant that can be forgotten and still thrive. Infact, many warn that horseradish can become invasive if it is not properly harvested.

The flavor of the root becomes hotter and stronger after the first frost. There is some debate about whether or not it should be harvested in the fall or the spring. I think either time is fine. This past weekend well before any frost we cooked beef at our Home Restaurant and wanted to serve with a fresh corn and horseradish sauce. After a little internet research I determined that it was hard to damage the plant and I cut one of our plants in half with a garden shovel. I was very excited to pull up the horseradish root!

Horseradish does not maintain its flavor when cooked so use it raw. Also it does not maintain its flavor if it is exposed to the air for more than a half hour so either grate it and use immediately or cover it with vinegar to help preserve the flavor for later use.

Last weekend we made a sauce with a puree of local fresh corn and then added fresh horseradish. Although it was not the hottest horseradish flavor it was pronounced, delicious and complimented the beef dish. A couple of guests asked for some fresh grated horseradish. I happily dug up some more in the dark garden, grated it and served it.

I probably should wait until the first frost to harvest more of the horseradish…but the beets are so good right now and the classic combination of beets with fresh horseradish is hard to resist.

Monday, September 21, 2009

South Central Farm

Last night I watched a moving, motivating and inspiring documentary, called The Garden, about the 14 acre South Central Farm that was set up in the middle of South Central Los Angeles. The film which I highly recommend follows a battle over the land that is full of individual and governmental disfunction and ultimately results in the loosing of the farm. Although this element of the story is gripping and emotional I was struck by the success of the project while it was functioning. It makes so much sense to use abandoned urban property for farming. Why not set up community gardens in urban areas where individuals do not have land but many are connected to farming practices from growing up in rural environments? The empowerment provided by growing even a little bit of your own food no matter who you are cannot be quantified. The health and environmental benefits of eating food you grow from close to home are vast.

This story left me with a renewed commitment to the various garden projects that I am working on throughout the city and an openness to additional projects. Our pumpkin plants at Scott Montgomery Elementary School are growing and getting more and more flowers daily. We continue to weed, water and feed while we anxiously await our first pumpkin. The front yard of the abandoned house next door to us is planted with cabbage, spinach, beets, kale and lettuces all of which are still small but quite healthy. I am enjoying watching them grow and look forward to starting to eat the greens in the next couple of weeks. The front yard of the apartment building a couple of houses down also has a couple of pumpkin plants and a large just sprouting bed of arugula. Other gardens that I planted in the area including our home are transitioning from summer to fall but will continue to produce up to the first frost.

Hopefully by witnessing the success to the South Central Farm (by watching The Garden) it can become a model for launching similar projects throughout the country.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

New Year

We had wonderful guests this evening enjoying each other and celebrating Rosh Hashanah. It was lots of fun collaborating on the menu with our guests, using traditional holiday ingredients and preparing them in our own way.

Honey Crisp Apple Dipped in Honey
Salmon Cake on Cucumber
Lamb Ragout with Squash Stuffing
Cauliflower Soup
Basil Lime Martini

Matzo Ball Soup
Challah Bread
(Michel Noellat) Bourgogne Rouge 2007

Beet, Egg, Red Onion, and Radish with Almond Vanilla Sauce
Poppy Seed Red Onion Bread
(Gilbert) Menetou Salon Blanc 2006

Beef Brisket with Cabbage, Potato, Carrot, Wax Beans, Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms and Corn Horseradish Sauce
Whole Wheat Salted Baguette
(Chateau Les Valentines) Cotes du Provence Rouge 2006

Cave Aged Marissa, Sheep Milk Cheese with Olive Oil Cracker
(Chateau Lalande-Borie) Saint-Julien 2000

Date Sorbet with White Chocolate Brownie
(Chancelle/Bourdin) Cremant de Saumur NV

Noodle and Fall Fruit Crème Brulee

Cookie Bites
Coconut Macaroons
Ginger Oatmeal Cookies
Chocolate Cakes with Vanilla Icing

A couple guests asked for the Beef Brisket recipe:
We got a 10 pound whole brisket (don't split it and don't trim the fat). John salted and peppered it really well (it can take a lot of salt) and rubbed it with roasted garlic. He sliced 4 red onions into rings about 1/8th of an inch thick and mixed those with 2 pounds of cleaned wax beans, seasoned them with salt and pepper and olive oil. He placed the vegetables in the bottom of a roasting tray and placed the brisket on top fat side facing up. He tore and rubbed 2 fresh bay leaves on the meat, covered it tightly and roasted it for 3 1/2 hours in a 350 degree oven, He pulled it out, removed the beans and onions, put the brisket back in the pan and let it rest for 20 minutes before slicing. He added calaloo to the beans and onions and served the sauce over sliced meat.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Noodle Pudding

Tomorrow night we are doing a Rosh HaShanah holiday dinner for 12 guests at our home restaurant. The menu will incorporate some traditional dishes and some traditional ingredients prepared non traditionally. Which brings me to dessert. I had a request for kugel which can be either sweet or savory and have a potato or egg noodle base. A loose translation for kugel is pudding or casserole.

I started thinking about making a sweet kugel for the dessert. Which evolved into the idea of a creme brulee with noodles and fruit. I thought about how good noodles would be in a custard and then crisped on top with a blow torch. Dessert kugels that I have eaten always had fresh or dried fruit incorporated in them. I found the first quinces of the season at a market this week and immediately knew they would be part of the pudding. Our fig picking has slowed down considerably but there are still some figs we can gather each day and I thought they would go well with the other ingredients. We bought some beautiful eggs from Whitmore Farms and John made me a beautiful batch of egg fettucini. I pulled out an old recipe from Rupperts for a traditional creme brulee custard. I filled brulee cups with fettucini, topped the noodles with shaved and roasted quince and slices of fresh fig and topped them with custard. I baked them slowly in the oven to set up and then refrigerated them. Before serving I will sprinkle them with sugar and take a blow torch to the top of them to crate a crispy sugar crust.

I like the idea so much I made it last night for a dinner and will make it again for tomorrow nights dinner. When I was explaining the dessert to the diners last nite one guest said to me that he had just had a fettucini dessert the night before...I got excited and asked where...alas he was only joking!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jacqulyn Maisonneuve' s Work from 9/11/09

These photos are from last Fridays home restaurant. Tonight we had another great group join us for our first Thursday night restaurant. We got to use our new long walnut tables that our friend Darrel made for us. The tables are beautiful and will allow us to sit larger groups together at one table.

I was particularly exited about the chicken of the woods mushrooms that I found in the park this morning. They were the nicest mushrooms I have ever found and we roasted them and added them to a wax bean stew with a poached egg.

Some upcoming nights are full but we still have spaces for September the 25th, September the 26th, October 8 and October 17.

Tonights Menu:

Cauliflower Soup with Basil

Fall Squash Fritter

Roast Chicken on Corn Cake with Corn Sauce

(Labbe) Abymes Savoie 2007

Coho Salmon with Zucchini Radish Salsa and Almond Vanilla Sauce

(La Chapiniere) Touraine Gamay 2007

Poached Egg with Wax Beans and Wild Chicken of the Woods Stew

(Lopez de Heredia) Cubillo Rioja Crianza 2002

Lamb Shank with Beets, Beet Greens, Roasted Potatoes, Red Onion and Tomato

(La Sauvageonne) Cot. du Languedoc "Les Ruffes" 2007

Cave Aged Marissa, Sheep Milk Cheese with Olive Oil Cracker

Date Sorbet with White Chocolate Brownie

(Pierre Paillard) Brut Champagne Bouzy Grand Cru NV

Noodle, Quince and Fig Crème Brulee

Coconut Macaroon

Ginger Oatmeal Cookie

Chocolate Cupcake with Vanilla Icing

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lamb Shanks

We are making lamb shanks for tomorrow night's Home Restaurant. We have been using Whitmore Farm Katahdin Hair Lamb. The breed has no lanolin, which is the fat that accompanies sheep with wool. Katahdin are a woolless breed and we like this because it has a cleaner flavor, none of the mutton taste that comes from lanolin. Also Whitmore's Farm does not let their lamb get too big, so the shanks are a perfect size portion-wise as well as texture and flavor. For any bigger and I would have to cook them too long just to make tender, thereby losing much of the delicious flavor.

I braise these shanks in a red wine and water concoction that I steep for hours with herbs, onions and garlic prior to adding the lamb. I do not use stock because I want the lamb-ness of these particular lanolin free lambs. After my red wine concoction is flavorful enough I brown the shanks individually. Then I add the shanks to the broth and let simmer for one hour covered. I uncover the shanks and continue to cook for twenty minutes and then remove the shanks. I continue to reduce the sauce while keeping the shanks warm and then serve. Lately we have been doing beets with tops and roasted potatoes. This lamb is so flavorful I really don't want too much to compete with it. I think I will make a tomato reduction with onions and serve as a condiment.

Whitmore Farms is at Rose Park Farmers Market on Wednesdays. As our friend James say's look for "the most well dressed farmer you have ever seen".

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Grandmother's Matzo Balls

My grandmother was Russian Jewish and an amazing cook. She ran a catering business in South Philly and took care of my crazy blind grandfather. Things I remember about him: first and foremost that he Loved food. Second, he use to march in place to Sousa-like music every morning, AND the third thing to know about Karl Blum was that he was a news junky that listened to the radio all the time, a radical and vehement LIBERAL!

Although we were never religious, we were definitely Culinary Jews. My Grandmother made incredible knishes, kreplach, and blintzes. Special occasions were always a feast. When we had Rupperts Restaurant, Christmas Day was a day off. After she died we would get up early every Christmas morning and drive to the Lower East Side just to eat at Ratner’s kosher dairy restaurant. Of course this meant shunning the Jewish tradition of a movie and Chinese food on Christmas. Eating stuffed eggplant or cold kasha in her tiny apartment my mother found her late in life, these are my Proustian moments and Jewish soul food will always make me think of her.

This Saturday we are doing a Rosh Hashanah Home Restaurant for one of our new favorite guests. We are serving kasha, brisket, kuegel and I will be making my Grandmother’s Matzo Balls. She would serve them in a bright flavorful Chicken stock that made the whole place smell good. My Grandmother loved to feed people as much as she loved to cook.

When Chana Leah Grinstadt was 15 years old she came through Ellis Island from Russia via Poland. She came from Barassa Russia and came across on a ship named the Polonia. When she arrived in New York, she did not know her birthday so she chose Armistice Day, November 11. Anna Blum died in November of 1997 after her 90th birthday party–I think of her everyday…

Matzo Ball Recipe

1/2 cup matzo meal
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons seltzer

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Bring 1 1/2 quarts of well-salted water to a boil in a medium sized pot.

Reduce the flame. Run your hands under water so they are thoroughly wet. Form matzo balls by dropping spoonfuls of matzo ball batter approximately 1-inch in diameter into the palm of your wet hands and rolling them loosely into balls. Drop them into the simmering salt water one at a time. Cover the pot and cook them for 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove from water and serve in hot chicken broth.

Vegan Matzo Ball Recipe

1/2 cup matzo meal
1/2 cup pureed silken tofu
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons seltzer

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Bring 1 1/2 quarts of well-salted water to a boil in a medium sized pot.

Reduce the flame. Run your hands under water so they are thoroughly wet. Form matzo balls by dropping spoonfuls of matzo ball batter approximately 1-inch in diameter into the palm of your wet hands and rolling them loosely into balls. Drop them into the simmering salt water one at a time. Cover the pot and cook them for 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove from water and serve in hot vegetable broth.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Martin Lane with a Puffball we found last fall

A friend of mine just recently moved to Seattle. He returned for a visit this weekend and brought me beautiful chanterelles. I get calls regularly after a rain from my brother who finds the most amazing chicken of the wood mushrooms behind his house. Last Wednesday I went for a run in my own special part of the woods and found wild oyster mushrooms for our September Eleventh Home Restaurant. At Rupperts we had a few people out searching for us regularly. Sometimes the competition was fierce where we had some accusing others of being impostors. We actually got a phone call from one of our mushroom hunters in a paranoid state: "if someone calls and trys to be me, it's not me, it's someone else trying to sell you mushrooms" ...OK, what mushrooms have you been delving into?

The great thing about DC is that Rock Creek Park is full of edible mushrooms and what a difference wild mushrooms make. When we were coming up in the eighties I can remember we called oyster and shiitake mushrooms we bought from farms wild. Rightfully they are now referred to as cultivated mushrooms as the wild are far superior.

A mushroom hunter that used to come to Rupperts taught us, if you find a mushroom, know that you can always touch it. That is to say there is no such thing as a poisonous to the touch mushroom. However eating is another story. And the best thing to do if you find one you are not familiar with is to bring it to an expert. Our Mushroom guys used to bring us mushrooms that John could only eat because he does not drink–the toxins are released by consuming with alcohol. I see lots of mushrooms in the woods but there are very few that I collect to eat, only the ones that I can positively identify.

As a vegetarian mushrooms are important to me for a few reasons but basically its the texture I enjoy, the masticating–the tearing apart of a fleshy texture with my teeth. Every Thanksgiving the key dish for us is a Mushroom stuffing full of onions, garlic, shallots, quinoa, olive oil and herbs. We saute the onions, garlic and shallots then add the mushrooms to cook until soft. Next we stir in cooked quinoa, olive oil and season with salt, pepper and herbs–sage is great. We throw it all into a cast iron skillet and bake until it is crispy. Of course we never know which types of mushroom we are going to find and if we do not find any there is always the farmers market.

These days we also rely on Fadia who has The Mushroom Stand at the Thursday Penn Quarter market and the Sunday Dupont market. I often call her during the week to see if she is bringing wild varieties to the market.

I hear it is going to rain on Wednesday, I will be looking for chicken of the woods, oysters and puffballs this weekend all of which I often find in DC during the fall.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Wedding Flowers

Over labor day weekend I did flowers for three weddings. One of the brides is from the UK and is a gardener, we used all local flowers as well as tall stalks of okra, fig branches and bunches of grapes. The wedding was at the nature sanctuary Woodend, in Montgomery County. The flowers came from Wollam Gardens and from my garden. The pre-wedding photos were taken by Jacqulyn Maisonneuve, a senior at Corcoran School of Art studying photo journalism. She is working on her thesis about integrating eco practices into everyday life. She is photographing us regularly. The wedding photographs are by Jay Premack who coincidentally introduced us to Jacqulyn, and happened to be photographing this wedding.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

September Eleventh

photos by Jacqulyn Maisonneuve

While we were cooking tonight for another amazing Home Restaurant (more about this below) my mind wandered to earlier in the day. I thought of spending an hour this morning with pre-kindergarteners tasting, touching and smelling herbs. We played in coffee grounds as we discussed the benefits of sprinkling coffee grounds on our edible garden. We chopped and ate farm fresh apples. My mind wandered to the magical rainy morning filled with the excitement of who knows what’s to come in a room full of three and four year olds.

Cooking and organic gardening are places where we can truly enjoy Chance–and spending the morning with out my multi-task portable communication device (a.k.a. my cell phone) contributes to the place of chance, that is to say the present. Of course the children and the amazing potential and wonder I have from being around them contributes more, but this by-product is the lesson I learn from them.

It has been written that communication is the doing away with chance. That is to say I receive the message and respond–yes communication is good. But similar to standardized chemical farming and Fast Food, that are both so quick to eliminate chance, cell phones have scripted things so tight that there is no Chance that we can miss anything. We run the risk of missing everything.

Frances, the Librarian at Scott Montgomery, uses a Reggio Emilia approach that allows the Children to wander and explore with respect and responsibility. This approach actually gives the children: Chance. That is to say the wonderful moment of the present is privileged in the discovery of demands and desires.

There is a symbiotic relationship to the Dinners we do out of our home and the time spent at Scott Montgomery Elementary Garden. We work hard at a practice in both disciplines, we have found curious, thoughtful people to share and learn from. We have discovered the importance of Chance–the play, the exhilarating unscripted-ness of cooking, farming, and children, the feeding of really any practice.

What is at stake is an issue of Time and for any Practice to have a Chance, what matters most is time spent–the actual practicing. To have as many chances as possible in the just being there is of the utmost importance. We discover, if we look closely in the between spaces of any practice, the ability to ride chance like a massive wave that you cannot master but only incorporate in an arrangement, thereby benefiting from its power in a symbiotic relationship.

We had a lovely evening. We reconnected with amazing guests and colleagues whose work we admire as well as met some new friends.

Dinner Friday September 11, 2009

Starter Bites
Roasted Okra with Banyuls Vinegar
Noodles with Olive Oil and Fennel Tops
Red Bean Puree
Lima Bean Puree
Winter Squash Puree

Basil Lime Vodka Martini
(Corail de Roquefort) Cotes de Provence Rose, 2008


Seared Sea Scallop with Cucumber, Garlic and Ginger Sauce, Basil with Sesame Bread

(Villargeau) Coteaux du Giennois Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Ratatouille with Creamy Corn on Corn Cake

(Lopez de Heredia) Rioja Crianza 'Cubillo' 2002

Whitmore Farm Lamb Shank with Roasted Potatoes, Beets and Beet Greens,Wild Oyster Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions

(Chateau Les Valentines) Cotes du Provence Rouge 2006

Cave Aged Marissa Cheese with Walnut Cracker and Garden Greens Dressed with Walnut Oil

X-Mas Melon Pudding

(Cantina Alice Bel Colle) Moscato d'Asti DOC 2008

Almond Torte with Fig Compote, Fresh Figs and Caramelized Almonds and Frozen Chocolate

(Chateau de Vaux) "XB" Extra Brut Methode Traditionnelle 2003

Dessert Bites
Toasted Fennel Seed Cookies
Cornmeal Drops
Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
Honey Cakes

Tonight’s play list was based on Blues and Bach and contained Modern Jazz Quartet's amazing Blues on Bach. We built around the entire album by playing Glenn Gould’s 1959 Goldberg Variations as well as Urban Contemporary, Blues inspired work like Erykah Badu and Hipster Folk Blues like Iron and Wine… Cyrus Chestnut and my favorite album Miles' Kind of Blue–One year We listened to nothing but Gould’s 1959 Goldberg Variations and Miles' Kind of Blue. I think it was the year we were waiting for Martin Lane to come…

Ohio River Boat Song, Greatest Palace Music, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

Gulf Shores, Greatest Palace Music, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

You Will Miss Me When I Burn, Greatest Palace Music, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

The Brute Choir, Greatest Palace Music, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

I Send My Love To You, Greatest Palace Music, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

More Brother Rides, Greatest Palace Music, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

Agnes, Queen Of Sorrow, Greatest Palace Music, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

Viva Ultra, Greatest Palace Music, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

Pushkin, Greatest Palace Music, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

Come On In My Kitchen, The Complete Recordings, Robert Johnson

Come On In My Kitchen, Blue Light 'Til Dawn, Cassandra Wilson

Certainly, Baduizm, Erykah Badu

Acoustic Medley, Songs Of Freedom [Disc 2], Bob Marley

Hear My Train a Comin' (Acoustic Version), Blues, Jimi Hendrix

Satisfaction (I Can't Get No), Greatest Hits, Devo

Love No Limit, What's The 411?, Mary J. Blige

Flow, Lovers Rock, Sade

Maundering, Master And Everyone, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

Sweet Thing, Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan & Rufus

If This World Were Mine, Anthology [Disc 1], Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?, The Hits / The B-Sides (Box Set), Prince

Everybody Is A Star, Moonlight Mile, Sly & The Family Stone

The Devil's Real (Live), Live As I'll Ever Be , Chris Smither

Kamera, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco

It's Not Happening, Chinatown, The Be Good Tanyas

a man/ me/ then jim, More Adventurous, Rilo Kiley

The Rooster Moans, The Creek Drank The Cradle, Iron & Wine

Upward Over The Mountain, The Creek Drank The Cradle, Iron & Wine

Don't Explain, Mystery Lady: Songs Of Billie Holiday, Etta James

I'd Rather Go Blind, At Her Best, Etta James

Trans Fatty Acid, The K&D Sessions (Disc 1), Lamb

Baroque Impressions, The Dark Before The Dawn, Cyrus Chestnut

Regret?, Blues on Bach, Modern Jazz Quartet

Blues in *B* flat, Blues on Bach, Modern Jazz Quartet

Rise Up in the Morning, Blues on Bach, Modern Jazz Quartet

Blues in *A* minor, Blues on Bach, Modern Jazz Quartet

Precious Joy, Blues on Bach, Modern Jazz Quartet

Blues in *C* minor, Blues on Bach, Modern Jazz Quartet

Don't Stop This Train, Blues on Bach, Modern Jazz Quartet

Blues in *H* (B), Blues on Bach, Modern Jazz Quartet

Tears from the Children, Blues on Bach, Modern Jazz Quartet

Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 – Aria, The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 1 a 1 Clav., The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 2 a 1 Clav., The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 - Variatio 3 Canone All'Unisono. A 1. Clav., The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 4 a 1 Clav., The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 5 a 1 ovvero 2 Clav., The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 6 a 1 Clav. Canone alla Seconda, The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 7 a 1 ovvero 2 Clav., The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 - Variatio 8 A 2 Clav., The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 - Variatio 9 Canone Alla Terza. A 1 Clav., The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 10 a 1 Clav. Fughetta, The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 11 a 2 Clav., The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 12 Canone alla Quarta, The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 13 a 2 Clav., The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 14 a 2 Clav., The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 - Variatio 15 Canone Alla Quinta. A 1 Clav. Andante, The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 16 a 1 Clav. Ouverture, The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 17 a 2 Clav., The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 18 a 1 Clav. Canone alla Sesta, The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 19 a 1 Clav., The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 20 a 2 Clav., The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 21 Canone alla Settima, The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 22 a 1 Clav. Alla breve, The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 23 a 2 Clav., The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 - Variatio 24 Canone All'Ottava. A 1 Clav., The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 25 a 2 Clav., The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 26 a 2 Clav., The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 27 a 2 Clav. Canone alla Nona, The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 28 a 2 Clav., The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 29 a 1 ovvero 2 Clav., The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Variatio 30 a 1 Clav. Quodlibet, The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

Aria da capo, The Glenn Gould Edition N°23, Glenn Gould

So What, Kind of Blue, Miles Davis

Freddie Freeloader, Kind of Blue, Miles Davis

Blue In Green, Kind of Blue, Miles Davis

All Blues, Kind of Blue, Miles Davis

Flamenco Sketches, Kind of Blue, Miles Davis

Flamenco Sketches - Alternate Take, Kind of Blue, Miles Davis

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Tom Kiszka the wine importer that we work closely with pairing wine with our food stopped by around 9:00 tonight with selections for tomorrows Home Restaurant and lots of information. We had been back and forth via email and telephone as the menu evolved. In total we are serving 6 different wines tomorrow night.

It is always good to see Tom and exciting to see the wines. Tom sat down with me for about 45 minutes, tasted a few things that we were cooking and shared his knowledge about the wines he brought with him.

We talked a lot about all of the wines that we are serving but spent the most time discussing the Vina Cubillo Crianza 2002, a classic Rioja. Rioja is a wine made from grapes grown not only in the Autonomous Community La Rioja, but also in parts of Navarre and the Basque province of Álava. Riojas have traditionally blended fruit from all three regions though there is a slow growth in single zone wines. Riojas are aged in Oak and Tom said that many Riojas are done in new oak which gives an exaggerated inauthentic flavor. He said many of these Riojas taste, "like they are on steroids". The Loez de Heredia family who make the wine we are serving use only old oak and make Rioja in a classic style. The vineyard has been in the family for 5 generations and practices have been carefully passed from generation to generation. Riojas are an ideal pair with vegetables. We will be serving this wine with the second seated course of stewed green zebra tomatoes, eight-ball squash and local garlic on cornbread with a sweet corn sauce.

We will finish the meal with Chateau de Vaux, XB Extra Brut 2003. Our Home Restaurant tomorrow night will be the first time this sparkling wine will be served in DC. This bubbly is made in the Moselle style which as Tom says, "makes for ferocious lively bubbles". It is 100 percent Chardonnay and from a tiny obscure vineyard in the North East of France that is a favorite of Tom's. We served a white from this same vineyard at a dinner a few weeks ago. Tomorrow we will enjoy the wine with an almond torte, figs from our garden and a bittersweet chocolate sorbet.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I LOVE small bites to end a meal! The bites at the beginning of dinner (that we pass) and at the end (that are sometimes cookies) are some of my favorite things about doing these Home Restaurants. Maybe its because with the eating of such a tiny portion I can amp up flavor? Maybe its because these bites sort of operate outside of the official meal–That is to say that the expectation that goes along with a main course does not accompany these bites and because of that I can experiment? Or maybe its because sometimes the best bite is simply a fresh strawberry and that simplicity would never pass as 'serious cooking'?

These are the cookie batters I made tonight for Friday's bites. Some are cookie recipes I have been making for years and some I have recently made up. All the batters I made tonight for Friday nights dinner are vegan. These same recipes can be made with dairy–everywhere I use earth balance substitute butter, everywhere I use soy milk substitute milk and everywhere I use tofu substitute one egg for each 1/4 cup of pureed tofu...

Salty Rosemary Biscotti

2 1/4 cup flour

1 1/4 cup sugar plus extra for rolling

2 tablespoons cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons non hydrogenated margarine such as, earth balance

2 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary

1/2 cup tofu pureed

1 tablespoons water

1 cup rough chopped walnuts


1.In mixer combine flour sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, salt.

2.Add earth balance cut in 8 pieces and rosemary till sand like.

3.Add tofu and water then walnuts.

4.Make logs and roll in sugar and himalyan salt.

5.Bake in a 350 degree oven until just dry enough to slice, about 20 minutes.

6.Remove from the oven and slice into 1/4 inch cookies.

7.Turn off oven and return sliced cookies to oven, let sit in cooling oven for several hours until dry.

Fennel Seed Shortbread

10 tablespoons earth balance

1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cups flour

3/4 cup spelt flour


1.Beat earth balance and sugar in a mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes.

2.Add cornstarch, salt and flowers.

3.Beat until fully incorporated.

4.Roll into sheets and cut with a cookie cutter.

5.Bake in a 350 degree oven until lightly golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/2 cup oatmeal

1/4 cup soy milk

1/4 cup grapeseed oil

1/2 tablespoons baking powder

1 tablespoon agave nectar

2/3 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup good quality bittersweet chocolate chips


1.Combine all ingredients in a mixer and mix until about half of the oatmeal is broken into small pieces.

2.Bake individual cookies in a 350 degree oven until they are golden brown around the edges, about 12 minutes.

Cornmeal Cookie

8 oz earth balance

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 cup flour

1 cup corn meal

1/2 cup ground almonds


1.Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in flour and mix well.

2.Add the cornmeal and ground almonds and mix to a firm and smooth dough.

3.Pinch balls of dough, place on a lined or greased baking tray and then flatten each ball with a fork.

4.Bake in a 350 degree oven until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Clagett Farm

For the last few years we have been members of the Clagett Farm. By purchasing a share in the winter for the upcoming growing season we become members for the entire season. Every week we receive a portion of the harvest.

Clagett Farm is a CSA–Community Sustainable Agriculture. CSA's are to Supermarkets what Netflix are to Blockbusters. That is to say a move that hopefully contributes to the lessening of importance that supermarkets have on our contemporary settings. Farmer's Markets offer positive alternatives to Supermarkets, however CSA's take the arrangement a bit further. They assure not only extremely local produce but extremely seasonal as well.

Many times Clagett offers us ingredients outside of what we would usually buy. In other words you receive only what the farmer can make happen that week and yes you do have some input by suggesting to the farmer things to grow. But ultimately we are never sure what is going to be at our pick up spot each week and that is when we are able to create outside our usual selves and we find this exhilarating.

Clagett Farm is owned and operated by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and also works in collaboration with the Capital Area Food Bank. The farm is dedicated to providing food to people of all income levels. In addition to the regular share they offer about half of their shares for free or at a reduced price.

During the local growing months what we eat and cook is influenced by what we get from both our share and our garden. This goes for both family meals and Home Restaurants. Today after picking up our share we began planning the menu for this Friday's Home Restaurant which will include everything we got today–– 8 ball squash, red potatoes, eggplant and okra. This in addition to produce from our garden and other farmers will make the meal.

Right now we are thinking the 8-ball squash and eggplant will become part of a ratatouille, the potatoes will be served with the final savory course of meat and the okra will be roasted and served passed as guests arrive, in the garden if the weather is nice. However this may change as we gather our other ingredients.

We still have a few spaces left for Friday night. Let us know if you can make it!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Early Fall Garden

Fall is here and we spent a good part of the day in the garden. Many of our summer crops are just beginning to bear fruit after a cool start to summer. It looks like we will be getting more tomatoes, cucumbers and summer squash over the next two months than we did all summer.

We replaced some of the early summer crops such as, shelling beans, French beans and heat loving lettuces with fall crops today. We planted cabbage and sorrel both of which we started in small containers about a month ago when we had no room to put them in the ground. From seed today we started beets, carrots, arugula, spinach (which I am hoping it is cool enough for germination, spinach does not like the heat), mixed greens, kale and a new batch of chard. All winter greens do great if you plant them from seed in the next week or so. Other plants that thrive with early fall sowing are peas, radishes and bunching onions. Most of the seeds we planted today came from Johnny’s Seeds.

We are focusing on minimizing the powdery mildew on the pumpkin and fall squash plants at our home garden, the neighbors yard and at Scott Montgomery Elementary School. We have read that powdery mildew is common with pumpkin plants and that the best way to avoid it is with organic fungicide sprays, a mixture of watered down baking soda and liquid soap or a neem oil based spray. We have tried the first two and will probably treat with neem oil later this week. With the neighbors we may have waited too long to treat but at school we are working proactively hoping to prevent instead of trying to treat later. Powdery mildew does not necessarily kill plants but we have read that it can seriously interfere with production.

Last year we enjoyed fall vegetables as well as tomatoes on Thanksgiving…there is still a lot of farming left this year…and hopefully a healthy harvest of pumpkins.