Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Local Fall Dahlias

Photo: Jay Premack

For the last few weeks I have been using lots of local dahlias. The colors and varieties are vast and make each flower arrangement unique and exciting. The most beautiful dahlias are delicate and do not travel well...luckily Bob Wollam grows a huge variety of dahlias and brings them into DC several times a week. The size of a dahlia flower can range from 2 inches to 1 foot in size. A little research on why there are so many varieties of dahlias revealed that they are octoplodis, meaning that they have eight set of homologous chromosomes instead of the two sets usually found in plants. This gives dahlias 4 times the ability of most other plants to cross breed into different varieties since homologous chromosomes contain hereditary factors such as color, shape, size and petal configuration. New varieties of dahlias are created from both purposeful and accidental (by bees) cross breeding.

Dahlias are available from mid July through the fall. Bob says that he still has lots of flowers blooming, he is able to protect them from light frosts but once a hard frost hits the season will be over.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

pumpkin seeds

One of my favorite things to make, serve and eat this time of year is sweet and salty roasted pumpkin seeds. I eat them as a bite on their own, as a garnish to any fall fruit concoction or with pumpkin, sweet potato or squash desserts.

Pumpkin seeds appeal all year long but at this time of year they are at their freshest and pair well with seasonal foods. Over the last couple of weeks we have served them many different ways: roasted and combined with fall squash, in a green salad with banyuls vinaigrette and a quenelle of polyface farm eggs, roasted and added to a spelt bread and to garnish several sweet courses.

I save the seeds from pumpkins and fall squashes to roast, often with olive oil and salt. The unhulled seeds are my favorite for snacking. Hulled pumpkin seeds work well for both savory and sweet dishes.

Nutritionally pumpkin seeds are miraculous! They are believed to help promote prostate health, help with arthritis, and lower cholesterol... They are also full of minerals, protein and monounsaturated fat.

Sweet Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

2 cups Hulled Pumpkin Seeds
3 tablespoons Agave Nectar
Himilayan Salt to taste
1 tablespoon sugar (ideally organic fair trade)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a sheet tray combine pumpkin seeds, agave nectar and salt to taste. Roast stirring regularly until seeds are darkly toasted but not burnt.

Remove from the oven and stir in sugar. Continue stirring as they cool to prevent them from sticking to the sheet tray. These store for several days in an air tight container.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Induction Heat

Our New Induction Heat Burner

Cassete Feu My Mother used Catering

We just bought a couple induction heat burners to cook tomorrow night in a kitchen that has no stove or oven. My Mother used Cassette Feus, which amounted to fancy French camping stoves or portable butane burners–Barely an upgrade from Sterno. Our new induction heat burners operate on the same technology that a lot of metal work uses. We barely understand and the picture below is the inside of one of our machines. The digital world is frightening sometimes... I mean when something gets hot, I want to see flames... And when something gets Hotter, I want to see bigger Flames! Analog Flames!!

What happens is when a flat bottom pan, that is electrically conductive (conducive to magnetics), hits the surface of the induction burner, an oscillating current is applied to a copper coil which produces an oscillating magnetic field. This electromagnetic field sends energy through the metal thereby creating resistance–heat. This process will only work on pots and pans that a magnet will stick to... we spent most of the evening sticking magnets to our favorite pans. (I guess its safe to say that if cooking is the wonderful mix of art and science we definitely fall on the art side of things.) Fortunate for us we have a love of cast iron in le Creuset cookware and the French saute pans we brought home from Rupperts.

I am not going to even pretend to fully understand–however what is interesting is that different from standard electric flat stove tops, these burners are much more efficient in terms of energy. They heat up super fast And get very hot–John used them for a short time when he worked at Marlow and Sons in Brooklyn.

We are looking forward to the gig tomorrow night... Here is a peek at the menu... and the inside of our new machine...

Roasted Sweet Potato with Polyface Chicken Salad

Green Salad with Polyface Egg, Chives and Banyuls Vinagrette

Grilled Beef Brisket with Braised Turnip, Carrots Leeks, Potato, Barley and Wilted Chard
(vegetarian alternative available)

Chocolate Cake with Roasted Pears and Ginger

Rosemary Oatmeal

The Inside of Induction Heat Burner

Monday, October 26, 2009

blue weeds

I did lots of flowers last week. I got beautiful flowers from Holland, Virginia and others from South America...But I am enthralled with the porcelain berries that are growing wild in the yard of the abandoned house next door and coming over the fence into our yard. I incorporated these berries into two large arrangements that a couple stood between while they got married on Sunday, I sent some in a low arrangement to a friend of a friend who is in the hospital and I am using some in centerpieces for a dinner that I am cooking on Wednesday evening...

A little internet research revealed that the porcelain berry is considered an invasive plant. There is documentation about how it has overtaken yards, open spaces and killed other plants. I am pretty certain that will not happen in our little eco system over here because we will use as much of it as we can cut in flower arrangements.

These berries make me examine the classification of weed vs flower...I must admit that this is not my first time picking weeds to use as decor or food. During the first few years that we had Rupperts Restaurant an abandoned lot/parking lot (this is where the convention center now stands) was across the street. In that parking lot the most beautiful purpley blue flowers grew and often we would try cutting them and putting them in vases for the restaurant, however they did not like being cut and always wilted and died before dinner. I have had more success with edible weeds and love to eat both pursalane and chickweed. In fact I have been known to purchase bags of both of these "weeds" for salads.

Another thing that attracts me to these blue berries that I found in my yard is the color. Blue flowers are hard to come by and are a great compliment to so many other colors. There are blue hydrangeas and occasionally a blue forget me not or muscari. Just this week we saw a news story about a new blue rose, to me it looked more purple than blue! Although blue flowers are hard to find I have many requests for them for brides who want to use blue. Usually we use blue hydrangeas or incorporate a blue linen or vase. If this weed was around all the time I would certainly use it lots. I will enjoy it while it is here!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

fig hockey

We were cleaning up what John calls, "Sidra's Field of Chaos", after two weddings, twigs, leafs and stems are everywhere... And Then, a hockey game broke out... It started when a stray fig wandered out of the dust pan pile AND after Martin Lane had declared her unlove of figs... its been a long season and we have enjoyed a lot of figs but we could have never imagined a contact sport based on smashing this glorious fruit as so much fun:

photo by Jacqulyn Masionneuve

Girl's Night

We had fun hosting a fabulous group of 10 women and one baby at this evenings Home Restaurant.

We continue to enjoy the blend of late summer and fall ingredients. John made amazing "little ear" pasta. Tonight we tasted a bunch of new wines that we had not served before all of them were excellent and well paired with the food, thanks to Tom.

Tonights menu and wines...

Whitmore Farm Egg, Egg Salad with Chives
Chestnut Soup
Pomegranate and Quinoa Salad
Scallop on Kohlrabi with Pickled Kohlrabi
Roasted Sweet Potato with Fall Squash with Pumpkin Seed
White Sweet Potato
(Labbe) Abymes Savoie 2008

Black Cod on Cauliflower Puree with Tomato and Lentil
(Delaunay) Touraine “Estate” Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Wild Oyster Mushrooms with Noodles, Lima Beans, Leeks and Eggplant
(Raquillet) Mercurey Rouge Vielles Vignes 2007

Strip Loin with Horseradish Mashed Potato, Beets, Green Beans and Breakfast Radish
(Roucas Toumba) VdT “Les Grands Chemins” 2008

Farmers Cheese with Apple and Walnut Cracker

Carrot Sorbet with Coconut Macaroon
(Chancelle/Bourdin) Cremant de Saumur NV

Chocolate Cake with Fig and Ginger
(Guindon) Coteaux d’Ancenis Malvoisie 2007

Ginger Molasses Cookie
Sweet and Salty Pumpkin Seeds
Oatmeal Rosemary Cookies

Friday, October 23, 2009


I have been feeling pretty down all day...I have been working the last couple of days on samples and proposals trying to get a big corporate flower job that I found out this morning I did not get.

Seeing Jackie's photos tonight made me feel a lot better about the amazing work I am so lucky to have... beautiful flowers, food and gardens AND with my kid around most of the time!! It must suck to work at a certain bank these days... (I won't mention which one...)

Arranging flowers is messy work...stems, leaves, boxes and vases are everywhere...basically chaos. Now the flowers are all neatly arranged in vases ready to go to various events. Fig branches and some amazing weed vine with blue berries came from our garden, Dahlias came from Wollam Gardens in Virginia, viburnum, anemone, tulips, hypericum, hyacinth, lisianthus...came from Holland and hydrangeas from South America.

Thursday evening I did flowers for the opening of the new Longview Gallery space. Tomorrow I am doing flowers for a wedding. Tomorrow night we are doing an 'all girl' Home Restaurant. On Sunday I have a couple of weddings. Days roll right into days...

Jacqulyn Maisonneuve came by today and took a few beautiful shots of the flowers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hana Market

Sometime all of us, especially Martin-Lane need a break from home cooked food. This evening after a long day of school and after-school activities we decided to go for our favorite carry-out...which consists of supplies from Hana Market at 17th and U.

This tiny, jam packed Japanese Grocery store that has been open for less than a year is our source for many items including maccha tea, seaweed, miso and fresh japanese vegetables that are grown on a local farm.

This evening we bought some frozen vegetarian goyza, dried wakame seaweed, a pre-made seaweed salad, fresh bean sprouts and some tofu cakes. We steamed the goyza, rehydrated the wakame and dressed it with sesame oil and soy sauce, dumped the seaweed salad on a plate, heated the tofu cakes and mixed the bean sprouts with lettuce from our garden and dressed it with sesame oil and rice wine vinegar.

We completely appreciate the small independent stores that supply us with interesting ingredients.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Every fall we used to have a well dressed woman in a large black Cadillac would show up at our back door to sell us chestnuts. We would excitedly welcome her and buy about 100 pounds from this tweed clad Virginia farmer. At the time there were not many farmers markets around and before she started showing up, the only chestnuts that we could find were imported from Italy. The Italian chestnuts were always a bit tired by the time we received them and not nearly as good as the local chestnuts.

This woman who grew and delivered chestnuts also taught us a method of shelling chestnuts which prior to her information was torturous. She told us to cut the chestnuts in half, place them in water, bring the water to a boil and as soon as they were cool enough to handle remove the shell. This method is vastly superior to the other methods that we had previously tried. We added the provision to always use a dinner knife to remove the chestnut, not your fingers. Using your fingers inevitably results in chestnut being jammed under your nails. A condition that to this day we call "chestnut thumb". Pain that results from any substance under the nail–no matter what job or discipline is now Chestnut Thumb.

There are certain repetitive jobs in the kitchen that I really enjoy and mark the change of seasons. In the spring there are peas and then fava beans, in the fall there are chestnuts. Minds wander as monotonous prep jobs become moments of conviviality. The mark of a good kitchen is conversation...

For the last couple of weeks we have been buying chestnuts on Saturday morning at the 14th and U Farmers Market, from Kuhn Orchards. We use chestnuts in a variety of savory and sweet dishes. At last weeks Home Restaurant we served a Poussin Noodle Soup with Chestnuts and Turnips. This week we will pass a warm savory Chestnut Soup while guests are gathering. Over the next couple of weeks I will pair chestnuts with chocolate and also probably make a dessert with chestnuts and fall fruits.

Chestnut Soup

Shelled Chestnut
Sherry Vinegar

Sweat onion and garlic. Add water and chestnuts and cook until chestnuts are soft. Puree until smooth adjusting the amount of water until desired thickness is achieved. Season with sherry vinegar, salt, pepper and sage to taste.
Serve warm.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Where are the grapes with seeds?

I am frustrated with the difficulty of finding grapes with seeds. For a few weeks in September we were able to find them at the farmers market. Whole Foods has not carried them for several seasons, the Giant near my house always had them last year but they are not available there this year either...

I understand that the crunchy, sweet, seedless varieties available today were developed to appeal to consumers. I prefer grapes with seeds for a few reasons. In nearly all cases seeded grapes have more intense flavor, not necessarily sweeter but more complex which I prefer. I eat nearly all grape seeds, ocassionaly very large or bitter ones I discard, and I enjoy the texture that they add. It also appears from everything that I have read that many of the health properties of grapes actually come from the seeds themselves. They are believed to be extremely high in antioxidants and to strengthen the human immune system. It seems absurd that buying grape seed extract is popular but buying grapes with seeds is nearly impossible. This is not the case in many other countries around the world where grapes with seeds remain popular.

Hopefully the absence of the of seeded grapes will pass...I have noticed in the last couple of years that watermelons with seeds are more available than they have been in a decade. I am a fan of the seedless watermelon but my daughter Martin-Lane swears that the texture and flavor of a good seeded watermelon is better than that of a good seedless watermelon. This summer we enjoyed quite a few watermelons with seeds.

Tonight at 1508

Thank you to a great group of enthusiastic eaters this evening who came out on a cold and rainy night. This is what we served.

Scrambled Whitmore Farm Egg with Sorrel
Diver Seared Sea Scallops on Corn Cake with Eggplant
Roasted Fingerling Sweet Potato with Winter Squash and Pumpkin Seed Puree
Roasted Broccoli
Green Tomato Soup

Sorrel Martini (Labbe) Abynnes Savoie 2007

Eco Friendly Foods Poussin Noodle Soup with Turnips and Chestnuts
(La Chapiniere) Touraine Gamay 2007

Wild Puff Ball, Hen of the Woods and Oyster Mushrooms with Green Beans and Cauliflower
(Gerard Boulay) Sancerre AOC 2007
Eco Friendly Foods Beef Strip Loin with Beets, Beet Greens, Potatoes and Horseradish
(Chateau Les Valentines) Cotes du Provence Rouge “Le Punition”

Farmers Cheese with Apple on Walnut Cracker

Carrot Sorbet with Coconut Macaroon
(Chancelle/Bourdin) Cremant de Saumur NV

Chocolate Torte with Frozen Fig and Ginger
(Roc des Anges) VDP “A” Passerille 2004

Dessert Bites
Candied Pumpkin Seeds
Salty Rosemary Oatmeal Cookies
Molasses Cookies

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Farmers Cheese

At Rupperts we served Farmers Cheese with warm bread before everyone started their meal. So, everyday we made the cheese. We chose this as a condiment to serve with our bread because it was delicious, light and paired well with all foods. Sometimes we would make it with raw goats milk if a farmer brought it to us, often with it with dairy from Lewes Farm. Before yesterday I had not made farmers cheese in years and even though I used to make it everyday I must confess to not remembering the exact proportions. Luckily the cheese if forgiving and there are many possible variations that will result in excellent cheese.

The batch we made yesterday came out great and we are going to mix in some herbs and serve it on a walnut cracker with a slice of honeycrisp apple after our last savory course and before our first sweet course at tomorrows Home Restaurant.

Farmers Cheese

You can substitute this for store bought ricotta in any recipe. For the batch we made yesterday we used Trickling Springs Dairy that we bought from Timor Bodega.

2 cups buttermilk
1/2 gallon milk
salt to taste
1/4 cup white vinegar

Place all ingredients in a pot and gently heat. The curd will separate to the top. Use a ladel to gently remove the curd from the liquid. Put curd in a strainer to separate the solid from the liquid. Once all of the solid is separated adjust salt and chill.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

on an open fire

Last weekend there was lots of cooking over an open fire...

We went camping in Harper's Ferry last Sunday. When we go camping it is this strange mix of doing things we don't usually do and spending time outdoors. What that means is that we refrain from the comforts and the electronics of home. This also means that we bring food to cook over an open fire: Not Dogs and Vegan Marshmallows...things we don't usually eat and have nothing to do with nature! The fun part is putting things on a stick and cooking them on/in an open fire. That is to say walking the fine line between catching things on fire and cooking.

I have to admit we have never cooked on a rotisserie before. That is before last Saturday, we were preparing for a party and needed to cook a few young chickens for a salad bite that we were passing later in the day. With the confidence of not having to serve these birds straight from the fire we decided to tryout the rotisserie.

We discovered the trick was to regulate the fire as well as the distance between the fire and the chickens while all the time rotating the rotisserie. This sounds like a lot but is totally worth it! After about an hour of cooking, the chickens slowly became crisp and juicy. However the best part about cooking on the rotisserie was the lightly smokey taste–just enough not too much...

We are roasting a few birds on the rotisserie for this Saturdays Home Restaurant to serve with noodles in a chestnut broth.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Nothing is more daunting than someone standing in front of you, asking you to create a menu. The question 'What kind of food do you cook?' 'What's your specialty?' falls along those same lines. Maybe my reticence to these requests is one of language–How do you say in so many words that there are multiple variables, that begin with immediate logistics and move all the way out to a position on the earth and its relation to the sun at the time the dinner will be served OR My food=x, in that x is the variable in a reciprocal determination of the various produce, animals and dairy that local farmers are producing... but how about we start with 'Do you have any have any food restrictions?'

The answer is of course:
1. fresh–everything comes straight from the farm
2. seasonal–the quality of food is better in season AND human tastes are more receptive to seasonal foods (that is to say food tastes better in season)
3. local–food for the most part tastes better if it does not travel far

I am sure we could find exceptions to these demands (and sometimes are forced to)–But why intentionally would we! We have the freedom to cook what ever menu we want... and with this freedom we acknowledge the parameters that empower any creative process. Paradoxically, limitations are our freedoms...

Creativity for us is not the making of something from nothing but the awareness of an arrangement and the ability to discern and use productive forces while encouraging life and life processes. That is to say within an arrangement there are parts, individuals, groups, species, societies, eco-system all working on each other in no hierarchical fashion, Chefs (humans) are not outside of these networks. Reciprocal determination will almost always seem like chance, however 'chefs in an eco-system' understand the play of limitation and potential in the simple assembling and interpreting of sustenance.

The request for a menu can only be fulfilled by more questions. What's the occasion? Do you know of any allergies? What time of year is the event?... The question, "What's for dinner?" for us amounts to a radically material question: What's Fresh, Seasonal and Local...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Home Restaurant Dates

Wanted to let you know about our last available October date and the
just announced November dates of our Home Restaurant¬–
Saturday October 17, Friday November 13 and Saturday November 28.

We rely heavily on farmers, a wine importer and other purveyors that
we have worked with for years to source ingredients. This time of
year we supplement our supplies with food from our garden. We are
committed to using best food practices.

Every week new fall produce is showing up in our own garden and from
our favorite farmers this week we saw the first: Chestnuts,
Sunchokes, Parsnips, Asian Pears, Baby Kale, Brussel Sprouts…
We will be getting Eggs and Lamb from Whitmore Farms, Poussin and Beef from Eco Friendly Foods, Sustainable Seafood from Prime Seafood…

We start with passing food and cocktails, in the garden weather
permitting, and then move to the dinner table for several courses
with wines picked for each.

Reservations and to inquire about the Requested Donation:
Please share this email with any potentially interested diners. You
can also choose a night of your own (other than the ones mentioned
above) if you have a group of 10 or more.

Please advise if you have any food restrictions, vegetarians are more
than welcome!

Check out this post from out blog about a recent Home Restaurant,


Monday, October 12, 2009


This is what my kitchen looked like a few days ago... John snapped this from the back stairs... A Chaos theorist who owns a gallery here in DC (and ate with us a couple weeks ago), told us that Chaos theory claims a temporal frame of predictability and Complexity theory is more spacial than temporal... I operate in mostly the same space, however I find it difficult to predict what will happen at any time. I am not sure if this makes me complexly chaotic or chaotically complex... click on the photo to see captions...