Saturday, February 27, 2010

Rich Vegetable Broth

Making my third consecutive batch of vegetable broth over the last week or so...
We have been enjoying it many different ways sipping it out of cups, combined with pasta, brown rice, barley, vegetables, white beans and last night with matzo balls.
There is no set recipe for making this broth and each time I make it I use different ingredients...

The broth I made tonight helped me clean out my refrigerator and included:

2 parsnips sliced in half long ways
3 salsify sliced in half long ways
1 carrots sliced in half long ways
1 beet sliced in quarters
4 shallots sliced in half
1 onion sliced in quarters
2 fingerling sweet potato sliced in half long ways
1 potato sliced in quarters
3 cloves garlic sliced in half
about 1 tablespoon fresh ginger very roughly chopped
salt and black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a large stock pot and cover with water. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce to a very low simmer for about three or four hours until the broth is very flavorful. A shorter cooking time will produce a lighter broth a longer cooking time will result in a very rich tasting broth. Lately I have been in the mood for a dark rich broth but both are good...after cooking strain out the solids and season with salt and pepper. You could freeze it or use it to cook with...but lately I have sipped on it for most lunches and dinners and then have gone ahead and made a new batch.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Re-Posting, Transparent Food

We are preparing for a Photo Exhibit at 1508 6th Street, Thursday March the 4th. Looking forward to displaying Abby Greenawalts images of an artisinal beef harvest at Eco Friendly Foods. We wrote this post upon returning from our trip this summer to Eco Friendly Foods.

photo by John Cochran

Bev Eggleston of Eco Friendly Foods is all about Transparency. How many owners of a Beef, Pork AND Chicken processing plant will invite a couple of eco-minded (one of us vegan) chefs and a professional photographer to witness the harvesting of beef, to witness the “Humane Killing” of six cows?

Agriculture and the notion of harvesting food are all about us as we drive through the southwestern part of Virginia. We drive three and a half hours to Eco-Friendly. We drive past pastures of grazing Cows. We drive past large signs that invite us to pick our own blackberries. The anxious anticipation of not knowing how I will react to watching an animal be killed bouncing off the knowledge of harvesting food. I want to experience, as best as possible, the in between spaces of where food comes from. As Bev says, “from the farm gate to the plate”…I have no idea what to expect…

Our friend and outstanding photographer, Abby Greenawalt drove up the night before to get accustomed to the facilities, meet the animals and have dinner with Bev in his environment. Abby’s portraits are amazing. Her ability to capture an instant of another human being while bringing out their personality is acute. She always seems open, with out an ounce of cynicism–obviously the key to her portraits. I don’t think she–or us, are prepared for what we are about to witness.

We enter the plant while Abby and Bev are closing a 30-foot tall sliding door behind them. We get a glimpse of two large white and red carcasses stripped naked and hanging from the ceiling. Bev greets us with hugs. There is a serene, earnest feeling–very sincere from both of them. They do not take lightly, what they have just witnessed.

Bev is adamant about the need for transparency and what drives him as much as anything is a ‘clean food movement’? In fact, the movement hinges on getting the word out. What Bev has created is an independently owned, marketed, non-subsidized, multi-species processing plant that services a consortium of farmers within a four or five-hour drive. Bev services Washington DC as well as New York City. Chefs and restaurateurs like Dan Barber and Danny Meyers all deal with Bev. We know the product is good! What most don’t know is, Bev was a vegetarian before he decided to venture into farming as well as producing meat and poultry.

We are standing in the future retail space of the Eco Friendly operation as Bev explains that he wants to walk us backward through the process. That is to say from the vacuum packed meat to the live animal in the yard. There is kitchen equipment around, a six burner Vulcan, a double stack Blodgett convection oven, a couple of steam kettles…The kitchen is unfinished, as is the retail space, however the familiarity of equipment we know and have used sets us at ease. Bev feels us out, as I said before he takes none of this lightly–there is an ultimate respect for life and in that he has no use for shock or gratuitous gestures of provocation. We feel we are in good hands, in the hands of a professor–a teacher who is about to share a truth–a fact with us that we already know but have never really experienced.

We walk into a cold room the size of the first floor of an average home. Here we meet Adam, a bearded twenty–something intern from Louisiana, who works at a nearby chicken farm. He is here to experience the other side of farming–the processing. Adam along with at least six other workers is vigilantly boning chickens and vacuum sealing them. Everyone including us is wearing white lab coats and hairnets. The coats have an Eco-Friendly patch on them and everyone is required to wear one along with a hairnet. There is a full time USDA inspector on premise and NO regulation is taken flippantly.

Davide stands no more than five foot tall; he pokes his head through the large doors where we first caught a glimpse of the naked carcasses. He motions to Bev and shouts a few words in Spanish. Bev motions to us and we are moving through what seems to be the chicken processing room into what we are assuming is the harvesting room.

One of the reasons Bev is a pioneer in his field is his ability to process multi-species. He runs a small operation where pipes, tables, meat hooks are all portable, changeable and easy to sanitize. His staff is beyond reproach, as they are able to move from cleaning chicken in the morning while cows are being killed to butchering pork in the afternoon. No large processing plant can be this versatile. The factories that turn over large quantities are highly mechanized and leave behind Bev’s greatest maxim: plain old’ sense will out perform standard conventional thinking almost all the time.

We enter the harvesting room and immediately feel a temperature change, from cold to warm. My camera lens fogs over as we huddle in a far corner. Davide points a stun gun down into a chute. We hear no sound. We barely made it in to the room to see the animal standing and now he is laying on the floor convulsing. Bev checks his eyes. If his eyes do not react, the animal is out. As calm as the animal stood in the pen is as wild as his body kicks without consciousness.

Bev’s story is one of a vegetarian who thought there had to be a way to kill with dignity, a way of allowing animals into the food chain with the same dignity and respect that goes into the preparing of meals. Bev operates similar to a chef that does everything by hand. It is in this way that the killing is done, is done with care for the life given. His respect for the animal begins in his own farmyard and carries all the through to the final product.

The animal is hung through the Achilles heels, on meat hooks that are on a rolling pulley like system. Blood pours out of the neck. The gorgeous brown fur of the cow glistens in the fluorescent lighting of a room with ceilings high enough to hang a two thousand pound animal. Davide and his partner meticulously begin to skin the carcass. Brown turns to bright red and white as the skin comes off in what seems like the ease of peeling an orange. I see the muscles still twitching. The head comes off and the inspector checks the lymph nodes. The inspector declares the animal healthy and it is at this point that I realize that at no time during this process have I thought about death or illness.

‘Clean Food’ is a political issue for Bev as much as anything. Our food supply is at stake. It is an issue of Health Care, National Security, Energy, Environment , Economy… all of which have been deeply impacted by not respecting life cycles and not allowing the natural ebbs and flows that contribute, strengthen us both figuratively and literally…

We strip off the lab coats to go outside. We wait as Bev heads into the yard to retrieve a cow. We watch as Bev holds his hands up to the animal and does reiki on the cow. Bev puts the animal at ease, it is important to Bev. The animal walks up the chute seemingly anxiousless, without excitement...

Bev is at the Dupont Farmers Market every Sunday.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Home Restaurants, February 13 and 14


Saturday and Sunday nights we had two memorable dinners. As always it is the guests that make the night. Saturday we had a great mix of old and new Home Restaurant diners all of who seemed to relish the idea of a night out after all the snow. The mood was joyful.

On Sunday night, Valentines Day we had been full for several weeks...however the snow resulted in lots of the diners not being able to make it and we ended up filling up at the last minute with reservations, some of which were not made until the morning of. In deference to Valentines Day we did not do our usual communal table but instead had a cocktail hour with everyone and then sat individual parties separately. It was fun to change up the way we normally do things. Some of the parties of two were sat at long tables with large flower arrangements in the middle to create two private seating areas...one of the tables ended up moving the large flower arrangement separating them from their table mates and became their own small dinner party. Another couple brought a bottle of Sauternes to share with everyone at the end of the meal...

John came up with the idea of serving two different main courses so every other person at the table had a different main. As we served the food we suggested that everyone could either eat what was in front of them or share with the person next to them...both nights everyone seemed to enjoy it and we look forward to trying this and other variations on this idea again. Tom who is our wine guy brilliantly paired the two mains with a white and a red from the same vineyard of the same year to compliment each of the mains.

Late afternoon before the Saturday dinner Martin-Lane and I walked down to Cowgirl Creamery our source for cheese. We have tasted and served many of the fantastic cheeses that they have available...we asked one of the cheesemongers we know if there was anything in particular that they would suggest..without hesitation they gave us a taste of Winnimere that had just arrived and they said would not be around for long. The cheese is a spectacular soft washed rind raw cows milk cheese from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont. It is unique in that it is made with a thistle rennet and from my experience completely different from any domestic cheese I have ever tasted. It was a great addition to the dinner.

The weekend was exactly what we like about the Home Restaurant...each one is unique, there is a feeling of community and the atmosphere allows for fluidity and always trying something new.

The menu was the similar both nights...

Passing
White Bean Soup
Cabbage and Ginger
Beets with Pumpkin Seeds
Turnip with Caramelized Onion
Cured Rockfish with Fennel
Mashed Potato Cake with Arugula Sprouts

Bay Leaf Lime Martini
(Schleret) Sylvaner Alsace 2006

Seated

Smoked Chicken Soup with Avocado, Shiitake and Rosemary
Whole Grain Rosemary Bread
(Olivier Morin) Chitry Blanc 2007

Sweet Potato and Leek Arepa with Black Walnuts and Cilantro
Friday night, (La Sauvageon) Cot. du Languedoc "Les Ruffes" 2008 Saturday night, (Giraudon) Chitry Bourgogne, 2008
Every Other Main…
Beef Strip Loin with Parsnips, Pea Shoots and Red Wine Garlic Sauce
Salty Spelt Bread
(Caves Jean Bourdy) Cotes du Jura Rouge 2005

and

Seared Sea Scallop with Vanilla, Girasol, Carrots, Dandelion Greens and Lemon
(Caves Jean Bourdy) Cotes du Jura Blanc (Chardonnay) 2005

Winnimere by Jasper Hill Farm with Walnut Cracker
Friday night, (Mauro Molino) Barolo, Gallinotto 2004
Saturday night,
(La Sauvageon) Cot. du Languedoc "Les Ruffes" 2008

Black Truffle Rice Pudding with Orange
(Tissot) Cremant du Jura, Brut NV

Warm Banana Pear Crumble with Chocolate Sorbet and Cocoa Nibs

Cookies
Soft Gingerbread with Lemon Glaze
Pistachio Cardomom
Chocolate Chocolate Chip
Friday night, (Buccia Nera) Vin Santo dell'Etruria Cent 2004
Saturday night, (Chateau Rabaud-Promis) Sauternes 2003

Goodie Bags
Warm Sesame Bread
Friday night, Rosemary Walnut Biscotti
Saturday night, Spicy Heart Beet Sugar Cookies

Monday, February 8, 2010

Invite, Open House 1508



Open House
Thursday March 4th
1508 6th Street NW
photos by Abby Greenawalt
Beef Harvesting at Eco Friendly Foods.

These photos offer a glimpse into an artisinal meat processing operation–very different from the corporate plants that process most of our beef today. As Small Farms struggle to get clean healthy food to us, Eco Friendly Foods offers a bridge for Farmers and Chefs

Bev, the owner of Eco Friendly Foods will be at our home to discuss his work
Abby will join to discuss her work as well

We have done some writing about this subject...you can access it via these links:
Transparent-Food
Grassroots, Eco Friendly Foods
Photo Exhibit

Thursday March 4, 7:00-9:00 pm
1508 6th Street, NW

Hope you can join,
sidra
sidrapractice.com
sidraforman.com

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snocream--the Video

video
Lots of snow...all weekend events called off. Time to make snocream, go on cross country ski excursion, catch up on work and enjoy some movies.
Watch our video...try some snocream

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Flower Samples

The day before the snow, which seems like a long time ago at this point... I did sample centerpiece arrangements for a bride who is getting married in March.

I like doing samples...it ensures that my clients and I are thinking the same thing. I think the main reason I like doing flowers for events and weddings specifically is the collaboration...This is the way it typically goes...After preliminary contact with a new client which is often via email we often have a phone conversation. During the conversation we talk about broad ideas, venues and general scope of the event. After the initial conversation we usually set up an in person meeting. I always ask for clients to bring or send in advance any images of flowers that they like or do not like...important images are ones that have an element that is appealing, color, feeling, specific flowers...or on the other hand something that they want to stay away from...for example "this arrangement is too uptight" or "I dont like the way those spikey things stick out of the bouquet"...Other helpful images are of the wedding dress if it is a wedding and tablecloth samples if they have been picked.

If I have enough information in advance I gather photos of arrangements that have elements that I think would work for the event we are planning, images of specific flowers that I suggest using based on color, season and overall mood of the event. I often pull up images of or actual containers that we could use for centerpieces.

At the meeting we go through specifics like how many arrangements, if it is a wedding the vision of the spot where vows will be exchanged and I ask for a few words to describe the feeling of the event. With flowers seasonality is important so for example if all the images that appeal are of peonies but the event is scheduled for September we talk about how to get a full lush flower feeling using hydrangea, dahlias or some other flowers....This is the fun part...we talk about ideas and together figure out how to create an overall feeling. We also talk about budget. With flowers, unlike other elements of an event, more is usually better...however if budget is an issue we discuss how to get the most flower impact within the given budget.

This can be anywhere from a week before the event to more than a year before the event. If there is a long time before the event I request that the client continues to forward me images so I can keep them in a file in case there is a shift in vision. For large events I always try to schedule a time to do a sample arrangement. Often this can be done in conjunction with a catering tasting so we can actually look at the flowers with linens, plates...or choose these elements with the flowers there to help inform the decision. If any adjustments are necessary this is the time to make them.

A few weeks before the event we have a final meeting on the phone or in person to confirm time line as well as other details.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Path Valley Annual Growers Meeting


We always are asked where we got our produce...especially this time of year. The Amish cooperative in Pennsylvania, Path Valley, is our primary source for produce throughout the year. We have been working with them since they were first established about 15 years ago. We were lucky enough to visit a few of the farms the summer before last.

The way it works is that Katie who manages the cooperative gets a projected availability list from the various members of the cooperative and passes it on to chefs in the DC area. We order from the list and then Gordon who has been driving for the cooperative since it started delivers with 2 young Amish helpers once or twice a week depending on the season. Stan a resident of the valley has the job of picking up produce from the various farms the afternoon before the DC delivery. Two young Amish women work at the dock sorting the various orders. Katie comes by late in the day to help sort out the inevitable problems. The work on the dock starts at noon and in the summer when the orders are large and the produce is plentiful they often work until midnight.

As you can imagine the coordination to get crops to be consecutively available throughout the year with many different farms is complicated. I talked with Katie tonight and she told me all about the annual growers meeting last week that is essential in the process. The planning begins around Christmas time when growers fill out a form committing to what crops they are going to grow, which varieties and how much they plan to produce per week for how many weeks. Katie takes all this information and this year with a lot of help from one of the growers wives consolidated it. After that there is a board meeting where 4 growers and Katie meet to assess the projections and figure out if there is enough, too much or the correct amount of individual items.

This information and the financial report of the previous year make up the content of the annual growing meeting which can last from 6-9 hours. She said that both the husband and wife from each cooperative farm attend. There is excitement surrounding the event. The farmers do not get out often. Outings consist of church visits every other week, weddings in the fall, a couple school events per year, a couple quiltings each winter and about 2 trips a year to a large store such as Walmart to buy the relatively few items that they do not produce at home. The growing meeting is an event and a rare one in that couples attend without their children and spend the day together. Most arrive with a picnic lunch and in addition the host family usually make a large stew. This year the hosts made venison stew with venison bologna. Throughout the day some additional snacks are served and there is a constant supply of highly sweetened mint tea that is made from dried fresh mint that is plentiful in the valley.

Katie says the atmosphere is friendly and lively. There is sharing of seed catalogs. Favorite catalogs include Johnnys, Baker Creek, E & R (no website) and Seed Savers. There is one copy of the large version of the Seed Savers Catalog that the members share.

Jake the largest producer of beets and carrots in the cooperative is moving to Wisconsin so the crops he has grown in the past were divided between farmers who already are producing those crops. Issac is a grower who sticks with all different varieties of potatoes. When asked if he wanted to try something new this year he declined. However there is another family that always anxiously listens to suggestions and plants large crops of new items at the slightest suggestion…last year it was cipolline onions this year it was red shallots. Between all of the member farmers nearly every crop and variety of crop that can be grown in the climate is grown…but new this coming season will be cornichons (which were a test crop last year, cardoons (which were not successful in the past), yacons (which have not been grown in the valley for a couple of years) and a new variety of strawberries which will produce fruit into October.

The meeting can also yield information. For example this year the main producer of Russian Banana Fingerling Potatoes had a crop failure and they have not been available since November. When this was mentioned at the meeting another grower offered 700 pounds that he had available for sale. He intended to grow the potatoes just for his household but had, had an unexpected high yield.

There was celebration this year because despite the economy the Cooperative had their best year ever. The cooperative invested in a new cooler at the loading dock and have already been able to pay off the loan that they took out in the spring.

This time of year we are enjoying Path Valley root vegetables, greens, black walnuts…we eagerly anticipate the spring crops!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Happy Birthday Derrick!

Saturday night we hosted a birthday party for Derrick. We first met Derrick when he was 15 years old. He worked with us in the kitchen of our restaurant Rupperts through high school until he went away to college. After college he returned to DC and since then we have worked with him on a variety of projects...he turned 30 last week. Derrick is not the only person we work with regularly that we have known with for about the same amount of time...JT, Todd and several of the farmers have been friends for awhile. Each is essential in contributing while simultaneously making our practice both fluid and fun. Despite the snow and fairly treacherous roads pretty much everyone showed up. There was a great group of people including parents, relatives, new and old friends. George Burton, A fantastic piano player from New York, came down and played a soothing quiet style of jazz that set the tone for the night.

This was also the first time since we have started doing Home Restaurants that we had a group mingling about, coming and going and casually eating all night long. Usually here at 1508 we do seated dinners, but after Saturday we are certain that the venue works for other types of gatherings as well. The next one we have scheduled will be a photography exhibition of Abby Greenawalts Photos. The photos document the artisanal harvesting of animals at Eco Friendly Foods. The event will be open to all and more details will follow shortly.

Saturday night Derrick chose the menu...He wanted everything to be finger food...easy, casual and accessible:

Chicken and Sweet Potato Salad
Beef Strip Loin on Roasted Potato
Grilled Shrimp
Cabot Clothbound Cheese
Carrot Dip
White Bean and Chervil Dip
Spelt Baguettes

Salty Rosemary Walnut Biscotti
Lavander Oatmeal Cookies

and the Birthday Cake,
Soft Gingerbread with Lemon Curd and Walnut Brittle