Thursday, April 17, 2014

Johnny Cash and family, then and now

If you love classic country music, don't miss out on the "lost" Johnny Cash album Out Among the Stars. The 1961 photo of Cash by Art Shay at right is part of an exhibit on Shay's work that appeared at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in New York City.
Cash's gifted daughter Rosanne has a new album out too, The River and the Thread. And Johnny's wife June Carter Cash sings on Out Among the Stars: here's the duet "Baby Ride Easy."
I've always loved Johnny's song "Guess Things Happen That Way." It appears on the Masters of County collection, which also features Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and George Jones.
And here's another song from Out Among the Stars.
 Rosanne Cash performed this live, acoustic version of "The Long Way Home" from The River and The Thread on CBS Sunday Morning.
Here's a fleshed-out performance of "A Feather's Not a Bird." I think her dad would be proud!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"Victory Garden" posters / Plants that bees love

The WPA-era posters below used vivid graphics to encourage people to grow their own vegetables. Especially charming is “War Gardens Over the Top,” which shows a youngster with a hoe chasing fleeing ripe vegetables. The drawing is by Maginel Wright Barney, a children’s book illustrator and younger sister of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. After the war, Victory Gardens gave way to frozen vegetables, and thus the decline of fresh foodstuffs was accelerated.
The pendulum has now swung backwards, thankfully, to an emphasis on fresh, unadulterated ingredients (as featured bountifully in our current Forum ("The Simple Life: Ideas to Nourish and Sustain")!
Beats me why Superman doesn't use his superpowers to take the load off poor old Robin!
Instructional graphics just don't come more appealing that the one below by Hannah Rosengren, showing which herbs and flowers attract bees—colonies of which are dwindling alarmingly worldwide.
Who has planted something this year? I've gotten as far as putting some basil in a pot (and turning the composter assiduously).

Monday, April 14, 2014

Susie Middleton: a newly minted farm girl's inspired recipes

Formerly chief editor of Fine Cooking magazine, Susie Middleton ditched the desk job for growing things and raising chickens on Martha's Vineyard, as well as continuing to develop delicious recipes for all of her provender. (It's a nice switch on the old song "How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Paree?") Her previous cookbooks include Fast, Fresh & Green and The Fresh and Green Table; we're carrying her latest called Fresh from the Farm. Susie seems like a really fun, cool, and centered person. Here's her own introduction to the book.

Yummy-sounding (and looking) recipes in Fresh from the Farm include main dishes like Spicy Thai Shrimp and Baby Bok Choy Stir-Fry and Winter Green Market Meatloaf; Susie’s signature starters and sides include Grill-Roasted Fingerlings with Rosemary, Lemon, Sea Salt  & Fresh Corn Vinaigrette, and Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Farm Stand Veggies. It's a very personal cookbook, after reading which you'll feel like you've visited with a friend who is eager to share her hard-won knowledge about cultivating crops and her enthusiasm about thinking up delicious ways to serve them.
I can't wait to try the Winter Green Market Meatloaf, which she says is one of her favorites: "I named it that because I first made it with the goodies I got at our Winter Farmers’ Market—including onions, carrots, kale (yes, kale), local feta cheese, and local ground pork and beef. The meatloaf is terrifically moist and tasty, and the sauce on the outside has a great zing to it."
Winter Green Market Meatloaf Recipe. "Tossing the veggies and plenty of garlic into the food processor makes a finely minced mixture perfect for lightening up meatloaf. I always eat at least a nibble of this warm out of the oven, but resting for a few minutes is a good idea; it will be easier to slice. It’s also delicious leftover, reheated or even cold, pâté style." Serves: 4 to 6
¾ cup fresh breadcrumbs (about 1 English muffin)
3 tablespoons milk
½ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 large carrot (about 3 ounces), coarsely chopped
1 small onion (about 4 ounces), coarsely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 small serrano pepper, cut into 3 or 4 pieces
2 cups (packed) coarsely chopped kale (about 2 ounces)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound 80 to 85% ground beef
½ pound ground pork
3 ounces crumbled good-quality feta cheese
1 large egg
Kosher salt; freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons (lightly packed) chopped fresh oregano
Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a large rimmed heavy-duty baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the breadcrumbs and milk in a small bowl and mix. Let sit. In a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup, Worcestershire, brown sugar, soy sauce, and Dijon.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the carrots, onions, garlic, serranos, and kale. Pulse until very finely chopped, scraping down the sides as necessary to incorporate the kale.
In a medium (10-inch) nonstick skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the chopped veggies and ½ teaspoon salt. (The pan will be crowded.) Cook, stirring, until gently softened and very fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool (about 10 minutes).
In a large mixing bowl, combine the veggies, beef, pork, feta, egg, several grinds of pepper, the oregano, ½ teaspoon salt, the breadcrumb mixture, and 3 tablespoons of the ketchup mixture (reserve the rest for brushing on the loaf). Using your hands, mix all of the ingredients together thoroughly without mashing too much. Transfer the mixture to the baking sheet and shape into a long, narrow loaf about 9 inches long and 4 inches wide. Spoon the rest of the ketchup mixture down the length of the top of the loaf and gently spread or brush it over the sides.
Bake the meatloaf until an instant-read thermometer registers 160° to 165°F, 55 to 60 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
Recipe copyright Susie Middleton, 2014, from Fresh from the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories (The Taunton Press, 2014).
Click here for Susie's template for a "Warm Salad of Roasted Root Veggies and Winter Greens." I am also enamored of her recipes for gazpacho, guacamole, ginger-peanut noodles, greens & noodles (tuscan kale),  carrots & shallots, and roasted beet jewels.
If you're interested in various aspects of choosing, growing, or preserving healthy, delicious food—and who isn't?—then have a look at the latest Daedalus Books Forum, called "The Simple Life: Ideas to Nourish and Sustain." We've curated books that highlight cooking with fresh ingredients, that inspire going local, that talk about protecting the environment, and that celebrate "homesteading" (growing, making, and preserving your own victuals!).

Friday, April 11, 2014

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel "Americanah": an excerpt

Right now I'm in the midst of reading the novel Americanah  by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I had listened to her read from a short story in a National Book Awards Author Events podcast, and the quality of her prose plus how charming and smart she was in the interview part really made me want to delve more into her work (all the prizes she's won didn't hurt either). There's also an older interview/reading with her on the BBC's World Book Club podcast site that's well worth listening to (re her previous novel, Half of a Yellow Sun). She hooked me completely with the first paragraph of Americanah:
Princeton, in the summer, smelled of nothing, and although Ifemelu liked the tranquil greenness of the many trees, the clean streets and stately homes, the delicately overpriced shops, and the quiet, abiding air of earned grace, it was this, the lack of a smell, that most appealed to her, perhaps because the other American cities she knew well had all smelled distinctly. Philadelphia had the musty scent of history. New Haven smelled of neglect. Baltimore smelled of brine, and Brooklyn of sun-warmed garbage. But Princeton had no smell. She liked taking deep breaths here. She liked watching the locals who drove with pointed courtesy and parked their latest model cars outside the organic grocery store on Nassau Street or outside the sushi restaurants or outside the ice cream shop that had fifty different flavors including red pepper or outside the post office where effusive staff bounded out to greet them at the entrance. She liked the campus, grave with knowledge, the Gothic buildings with their vine-laced walls, and the way everything transformed, in the half-light of night, into a ghostly scene. She liked, most of all, that in this place of affluent ease, she could pretend to be someone else, someone specially admitted into a hallowed American club, someone adorned with certainty.
I love the "delicately" overpriced shops and the "pointed" courtesy. I'm about a third of the way through, and it's the kind of book you can't wait to get back to in the evening after you've dispatched all the tasks of the day. You can read more from this first chapter here, on NPR's website.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How much do you know about fruits? 20 questions!

If phrases like pomological, fructiferous arcana, and monstera deliciosa perk you up, then you will enjoy A Potted History of Fruit: A Kitchen Cornucopia. It, along with its companion book on vegetables, would make a lovely host/hostess gift. I invite you to test your fruit-related knowledge with this mostly true-or-false quiz, constructed of tidbits I gleaned from the book. 
1. A  member of the family Bromeliacae, pineapples were discovered by Christopher Columbus on his first trip to the Caribbean in 1492. True or False: They should not be stored in the refrigerator.
2. True or false: fruiting cherry trees are the same as the famous Japanese ones on the Mall in Washington DC.
3. In the Middle Ages, strawberries were believed to be an aphrodisiac; hence a soup made of them was a traditional wedding breakfast for newlyweds.
4. On the tree, olives ripen from green to purple.
5. The leaves of the black mulberry are a staple for silkworms.
6. Watermelon seeds were found in King Tut's tomb.
7. Apples stored unwrapped near carrots or potatoes make the latter bitter.
8. Apples were cultivated in the Nile Delta by order of Ramses II in the 13th century BCE.
9. Peaches were first grown in the Fertile Crescent.
10. The fig is a viable candidate for first plant ever cultivated by humans.
11. How many gallons does it take to make a quart of maple syrup? a) 10 b) 20; c) 50
12. Whose coat of arms featured a pomegranate? a) Mary, Queen of Scots b) Elizabeth I c) Catherine of Aragon
13. The "passion fruit" was so named and used by missionaries in South America to teach the natives about the sufferings of Christ.
14. A "fruit machine" was used in the Canadian Civil service to weed out homosexuals.
15. "monstera deliciosa" = another name for pumpkins.
16. India is the largest producer of mangos.
17. Some species of apples and pears look alike. How can you reliably tell the difference?
18. Where was the lemon first cultivated in Europe? a) Spain; b) Italy; c) France
19. What is the Italian liqueur Amaretto flavored with? a) apricots; b) kumquats; c) cherries
20. In the coastal waters near Bali, what makes its home in coconut shells? a) crabs; b) sea horses; c) octopus