Vegetative Uncertainty


Humans! In India when speaking of our dead, the people say “she left the body” rather than “she died”. That is, there is a deep clarity — for me our subconscious patterns of speech reveal deeply the structure of how we think — about what death is, or as it has sometimes occurred to me, “the unreality of death”.

Krishna and Jesus are both pretty into this idea —

“For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.”

“He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.”

I’ll let you figure out the who’s whom, but the point is that many tribes and cultures have come up with elaborate rituals around the Leaving of the Body. Some are to gather together, some are to forcibly extract grief (mandatory wailing), and some are in the spirit of pure celebration.

In Mexico, Dia de Los Muertos is celebrated every year, on November 1st and 2nd, to pray for and remember our dead. I’ve been working with a group in Sequim for the past few years, to put on a Dia de Los Muertos fundraising dinner for the last few years. Last year, we served enchiladas.

Now it’s all beginning to come together. You see?

Fellow and erstwhile tripper and professional Reed Aubin recently informed me he is working with a group of students from El Colegio to build Day of the Dead altars for the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. In the spirit of inspiration, I suggest to everybody in the family that we do the same. Maybe we could work on it over the next few weeks, or maybe we could have a party the day before Halloween, make some enchiladas, build offerings together, remember, laugh, and cry over our dead.

You’ve got to do this thing. This idea of memory and creation: the holding and releasing. It happens one way or another. There’s no other way. The skeletons and enchiladas and dioramas are just a tool to help you get on with it.

I think it’s important for those of us still in the body. Ask you family floating around you. They know.

And if you do, or don’t, you might want to try these awesome enchiladas I made for my mom today:

PUMPKIN ENCHILADAS

woke up to 22 degree frost on the grass i scythed this morning and it’s very clear that fall just ended. probably can still get some more blackberries before the rain returns, but it’s basically time to turn towards that pumpkin.

* filling

double-hands-full of chantrelles we picked last week, brushed lightly to remove dirt, and sliced into quarters, or until each piece achieved the volume of a baby carrot.
1 small leek, chopped into thin rings, up to the beginning of the light green section.

saute the chantrelles on low heat until they sweat out a little water. ours have been pretty dry so not much comes out. and, really, you can use any mushroom. they don’t have to be chantrelles and you didn’t have to pick them. but you’ll enjoy it more, likely, if you did. add the chantrelles to the bowl with the leeks, squirt some olive oil (from your fancy ex-relish bottle full of olive oil you keep next to the stove to be cool), and return the shrooms with the leeks to the pan. saute on low head until the leeks are sweet and tender enough to eat. the mushrooms should be plump and tender. if you’re worried about difference in cooking times between your mushrooms and the leeks, you can do them separately and combine at the end.

(salt)

* rice

i did plain white rice today. it was sweet and delicious.

* sauce

i used half of a pumpkin about 2/3 the size of my head. try to measure that. hah. you can cut it roughly into slices and steam it until the peel comes off easily, then (you guessed it) easily take the peel off and boil it with an inch of water and some of the tougher green tops from your leek. you can also add an old carrot, some celery, half an onion, and a clove or two of garlic. basically, you’re making a sort of pumpkin soup, but a watery, lame pumpkin soup. the reason it doesn’t matter if it’s slightly lame is that you’re going to blend it and it’s going to be awesome.

while you’re heating up the pan for the filling but the mushrooms aren’t clean and chopped yet, deposit enough pumpkin seeds to cover the bottom of the pan and let them toast on medium heat until they tell you (really, they will speak) they are done. trade the seeds out for the shrooms, and add the seeds (“pepitas”) to the blender. blend. add the pumpkin soup after everything in the broth is tender, and a bit of salt. blend again. check the consistency. the goal here is to be able to pour the sauce into a pan, grab a tortillas, and dip the tortilla into the hot sauce so it coats the tortilla as it slips off. if it’s too thin, you’ll just be reducing the sauce on the stove again as your friends chop cilantro and avocados, impatiently, receding into the distance. if it’s too thick, you add water, stock, a little cream, white wine, whatever.

taste, add salt, taste, question the salt, taste.

* goodies
avocado
finely diced onions
cilantro

* assemblage

dip the tortilla in the sauce
Almost burn yourself
Jump in excitement!
Flick the soaked tortilla on a ceramic plate
Have someone spoon the filling,
then the rice,
then the avocado,
And roll it yourself to seam-side-down.

Repeat twice, drizzle more sauce on top,
paint with cilantro and chopped onions
if feeling artistic.

Note that these enchiladas were described as “absolutely delicious blend of delicate with spicy with warm and savory.” by a human thousands of miles away. So they must be good. And they are.

delight,
ankurbhai

p.s. if you do this offering thing, as i will, send me a note or picture about it. i think that will be good.

83 lost meadow
sequim, wa 98382

As promised, the recipe for Bob’s fruitcake that was perhaps the third dessert course of our last evening. I have incporated his nutty adjustments and censored aberrant mentions of microwaves. The general consensus was that fruitcake had been redeemed from its supermarket reputation, most likely by the frequent addition of brandy.

Note that I had a couple of slices the next morning on the way to the ferry (I was _not_ driving) and it was excellent as a morning treat, though perhaps not so appropriate for working with patient. Which is to say, I’m glad I carry cloves with me for a mouth freshener.

Ingredients
-=-=-=-=-=-

(for step 1)
* 1 cup golden raisins
* 1 cup currants
* 1/2 cup sun dried cranberries
* 1/2 cup sun dried blueberries
* 1/2 cup sun dried cherries
* 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
* Zest of one lemon, chopped coarsely
* Zest of one orange, chopped coarsely
* 1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped
* 1 cup gold rum

(for step 2)
* 1 cup sugar
* 5 ounces unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks)
* 1 cup unfiltered apple juice
* 4 whole cloves, ground
* 6 allspice berries, ground
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon ground ginger

(for step 4)
* 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 2 eggs
* 1 cup toasted pecans, broken
* Brandy for basting and/or spritzing

Directions
-=-=-=-=-=

1. Combine dried fruits, candied ginger and both zests. Add rum and macerate overnight.

2. Place fruit and liquid in a non-reactive pot with the sugar, butter, apple juice and spices. Bring mixture to a boil stirring often, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for at least 15 minutes. (Batter can be completed up to this point, then covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before completing cake.)

3. Heat oven to 325 degrees.

4. Combine dry ingredients and sift into fruit mixture. Quickly bring batter together with a large wooden spoon, then stir in eggs one at a time until completely integrated, then fold in nuts.

5. Spoon into a 10-inch non-stick loaf pan and bake for 1 hour. Check for doneness by inserting toothpick into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done. If not, bake another 10 minutes, and check again.

6. Remove cake from oven and place on cooling rack or trivet. Baste or spritz top with brandy and allow to cool completely before turning out from pan.

7. When cake is completely cooled, seal in a tight sealing, food safe container. Every 2 to 3 days, feel the cake and if dry, spritz with brandy. The cake’s flavor will enhance considerably over the next two weeks. If you decide to give the cake as a gift, be sure to tell the recipient that they are very lucky indeed.

[paneer is an indian farmers’ cheese, like ricotta]

empty 8 years of war and depression, within and without.
scrub the pot.

add half a gallon of milk.

agitate with fire, passion, agape, fury, hope, and a medium-high flame.
stir to avoid burning.
you attention is the best prophylactic available.

hold in your hands like a weapon named the future, a glass of juices you just lemoned, or applecidervinegar you fermented years ago. awaken all the senses with a casual waft.

when the milk the boils, the moment has come. move the pot off the flame, stir with one hand and pour with the other. change doesn’t happen immediately and faith is, thusly, required.

it could take 30 seconds. don’t pour too much or too little. let your faith be a guide. you will begin to see strong solid curds float about a mist of whey. clarity. continue to stir gently. more acid until the whey is clear.

strain in a cheesecloth or clean t-shirt. pour the whey you strained into a jar and place the jar on top of the curds. let the whey-t do the work.

have breakfast. after you’ve washed the dishes, the paneer will be solid, firm, dense, fresh, and ready for the new, new world order.

love
ankur

[paneer is best pan-fried, like tofu, and put into all sorts of curried goodness]

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There’s a poem by Robert Hass that ends that way. It starts with

All the new thinking is about loss.
In this it resembles all the old thinking.”

and continues on through image and language, engaging and turning you, until somehow, a mere page later, all you want to speak and hear is that old refrain: “Blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.”

2 cups of yogurt

1 cup of blackberries

1 black pepper shaker

It’s good to whip the yogurt, and better to make it yourself, from the delicious milk from our local Dungeness Creamery. If you want to go for the more ice-cream vibe, whip it with sugar (I would say honey, but I haven’t tried that yet…) and place it in the freezer, taking it out to whip every couple of hours, until the consistency meets your desires.

Toss the blackberries with one 120 degree turn of the pepper grinder. Prudence: “In wildness lies the salvation of the earth”. You can now choose how to sculpt your combination — a bowl of blackberries with chilled yogurt poured on top (hiding them or leaving the boulders visible)? a scoop of frozen yogurt surrounded by plump berries? a swirl together of color? perhaps a frosting for that last birthday cake of the season…

As the official founder and chairhuman of the Olympic Peninsula Delicata Squash Amateur Enthusiast Group, I am proud to celebrate this week’s inclusion of delicata in the box.

  

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

 

1 delicata squash

4 tablespoons of butter

½ teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice

 

Cut the squash in half the long way with a sharp knife on a firm cutting board. Be careful. The duller the knife, the more force you half to use, and the easier it is to maim yourself.

 

Scrape out the seeds and fibers. Scrape in the butter and, optionally, dust with the spices. Place the two halves on a baking tray, close the oven and sit down to eat dinner. When you’re ready for dessert, turn the oven off and pull the pies out. It’s as magical as that whole caterpillar-butterfly transaction. Remember?

 

For an added “oh, wow” you can soak a few dates in water (or wine), then puree them

 

hints of chile powder, freshly crushed cardamom, and unsweeted cacao nibs

 

Coat the cavities and exposed flesh of the squash with butter and your date paste, then bake as directed.

or as Leonard Cohen puts it:

“Give me back my broken night / my mirrored room / my secret life…”

 

In this case, you’ll be getting a healthy combination of romaine lettuce and Olympic jalapeños. The “Olympic” means you don’t have to sweat them (either).

 

The original Caesar salad, from the hands of Tijauna’s Caesar Cardini, was comprised of whole leaves of romaine lettuce, tossed at the table with a host of other ingredients (the dressing). It included neither anchovies nor jalapenos. And we don’t grow anchovies. Which means, for you, toss together the following:

 

the tender leaves and heart of your romaine lettuce

3/4 cup croutons
1 coddled egg

1/4 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese

 

If you’ve never coddled an egg, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Warm an egg (hugs) and place it in a coffee cup. Pour hot water over it and let it sit for 10 minutes. Neither cooked nor raw, pampered nor ignored: it’s coddled.

 

Then mix together the following:

 

2 cloves of minced garlic

the juice of half a lemon

1/4 cup of olive oil (and then some, if it’s good)

coarsely ground black pepper

2 jalapeño chiles, roasted and skinned and pureed.

salt to taste.

 

What that means is that you either broiled the chiles or dry-roasted them on the stove, until the skin was black and blistered. Then, when cool, you scraped the skin over and either blended them or chopped them finely with a big knife. The jalapeños take the place of the Worcestershire sauce. A man from Tijuana should be proud.

 

First I was dreaming a roasted carrot soup like we had the other night across the streaking clouds and purple light of the Dungeness delta, looking out over a waning patch of beets and our mountain guardians to the South. But, I sense, this fall and winter there will be plenty of time, and carrots, and cold for that particular dish.

 

Then I went back to an Ecuadorian recipe for a cold avocado soup and though neither the Equator nor the avocados are near nor relevant to this week’s farmshare, it’s my inspiration. Así es.

 

1. To the garnish go the carrots! Take one of each carrot (maybe two of the purple if their smaller) to the grater, and place each color in a separate bowl with a bit of salt and apple cider vinegar. Swish and let sit.

 

2. Melt two pats of butter in a pan and add in two cloves of garlic (roughly chopped) to sizzle. If you have a couple of green onions on hand, add them as well. When the garlic has tanned in the afternoon sun, add your spinach and arugula, roughly chopped. Leave the lower stems for stock or compost. Lid the pan, turn down the heat, and let them simmer-steam in their own goodness until soft.

 

3. To the cooks go the sugar snap peas: by the Handful.

 

4. Blend the softened greens with enough liquid to come out on the thin side of creamy. Use stock if you’ve made it, cubes if you can find them, or wine if there’s any left from the in-laws. If you have some yogurt you made last night from the local creamery’s delicious raw milk, add a cup of that. Finally, if Ecuador sent you any avocados, add one of those as well.

 

5. As the directions say: “cook and chill”. Prepare your second course, supervise the dishes being done, or finish the rest of that fumé blanc while the soup chills out. Salt and pepper (freshly ground) and paint with some of each color garnish as you serve.

You don’t have to shell them. Kind of. That is, you don’t have to shell them first. What you can do (while the spaghetti sauce thickens) is broil them in the oven, on a tray, and flip them when you see the black spots of doneness. Broil for a few more minutes. When you take them out, the skin will be limp and blistered. At that point, just squeeze them like toothpaste and the beans should shoot out all over the room. Let your kids do it. Then use them however you want:

In pasta sauce.
Cooled, in salad.
Pureed like hummus.
Sautéed, even.

I especially like them sautéed with fresh basil and olive oil, then mixed with raw grated beets (the deep red kind) and left to mingle. A little lemon juice at the end adds a final touch.

( E E E G F# E, D E  )

That’s right. You can’t keep a good brassica down and this week, for the first and cutest time, we have baby turnips. Nothing pallid or premature about them, like everybody else, they are what they are (and they are good).

Like your grandmother said, the best way to have a new vegetable is with lots of butter and garlic. But you knew that already, so we’ll work on a spicy yogurt rub,  useful for simmering steamed vegetables as well as marinating items in anticipation of the grill –

1 big onion
1 big tomato
1/2 head (not clove, but head) of garlic
1 thumb of peeled ginger
2 spicy chiles (with discretion and indigestion in mind)
1/2 cup of yogurt
salt

Blend everything together. While you are blending, have Vanna pick out a small saucepan with high walls – we want to have 1/4 inch of oil in the pan, without using a whole jar of oil. There needs to be some height to avoid burning the blended goodness.

Heat the oil. When you have a smooth pink lovely affair, wave your hand over the oil to make sure it’s hot. Pour in the mixture and fry it. You will smell the spices browning and watching the water sizzle away. At this point you could add small spoons of

clove, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, turmeric, red chile powder, black pepper

For a quick trip to India Lane. But you don’t have to. I might finely chop some dill or basil and just use that instead. Of all the spices, though, the turmeric has a huge and beautiful affect on the color. And we all know how much humans like color.

When you sauce has thickened, you can either turn off the heat and brush it onto some dead vegetables or animals, or turn down the heat and add your steamed turnip halves and turnip greens

In the second case, cook the sauce with the vegetables for a couple minutes to infuse the flavor. Test for salt. Finely chopped cilantro makes a great garnish, but, if you’re throwing one of those fashionable “blind dinner parties” is totally superfluous.

This week, for the first time, we are proud to present a laborious bunch of hand-picked green beans. Green beans are nutritious and versatile in addition to tasting – like everything else we grow – really, really good. I’ve found that the best thing to start with is to break the ends off of the beans and blanch the beans in a pot of hot water. Maybe for two or three minutes, enough to brighten the color and tenderize them.
After blanching the beans in hot water, plunge them in a bath of cold water (like a Finnish sauna ritual), and chop them into finger-joint-sized pieces. They are now ready to eat, tossed with salt and melted butter, or to use with any of the recipes below.

Green Beans Provençal

The usual provençal suspects:

2 cloves of garlic
1 medium tomato
1 large spring of basil (leaves only, please)
(optional dust of lavender)

Diced together and sautéed in olive oil on a medium heat until fragrant. When the garlic browns, mix the blanched beans into the pan and cook until just tender – don’t cook it too long or they’ll turn limp and depressed.

Salt and pepper finish it off. Contrary to your doctors’ advice, butter never hurts.

A Green Bean Salad

Toss together:

The Green Beans
Diced cubes of feta cheese
Halved olives
Diced lemon cucumbers
1 smushed clove of garlic
1 liberal pull of olive oil
Half a lemon’s juice
Salt and pepper

This is the life the party. To make it more like a conventional salad, thinly chop spinach leaves into long strips. You can use a dozen or so, and maintain the strong flavor of the salad, or add the whole bunch for a more relaxed addition.

Green Bean Stir-fry

A perfect late-summer stir-fry highlighting our first cabbages of the season and all the colored in the carrots.

Slice thinly and diagonally one of each carrot color
A good quarter of the cabbage, grated
Your green beans, already blanched
A few spinach leaves, casually torn

Get a high-heat oil (sunflowers works wonders) in a high-heat pan (aluminium does not) and throw in your carrots when hot. For an added element of flavor, you can add one (or more) of the following before the carrots:

Anis seeds, mustards seeds, a cinnamon stick, a dried red chile, freshly crushed garlic

And fry it in the oil until the popping stops. After the carrots have been dancing for a couple of minutes, add the cabbage. You will hear the heat go down as the cabbage comes up to temperature. When the sizzle is back, add the green beans. Stir rapidly, keeping the vegetables hot and moving.

Add some soy sauce. Stir and fry for a scant minute longer. Don’t let anything get soggy. Serve immediately over rice, barley, polenta, or something else warm and satisfying.

Sesame seeds – black and white together — make an excellent garnish.

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