Monday, December 19, 2011

Water Kefir

I recently became the proud parent of some water kefir grains.  They came from a friend in Atlanta who gave them to my father who gave them to me.

 And o man, is it ever wonderful.  It's the easiest kind of parent to be, and the rewards are outstanding.  All you do is add water and sugar to the babies, and they get to work.

 Sometimes I add dried fruit or candied ginger, and it takes on those flavors powerfully.  It also destroys the dried fruit to a pulp, rather quickly.  And leaves a nice sediment.  It's the best bubbly beverage out there.

The thing is, they  So I've got plenty to share.  Let me know if you would like to try your hand in the wonderful world of water kefir, and I'll send some of my hard working little kefir grains to a brand new home.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Delectable Spectacle!

For even more photos, check out the blog put together and written by the ladies who organized this spectacular event: Nothing Could Be Finer

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Beet Dip

This beet dip is taken from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, where it is called Pantzarosalata II, or Pureed Beet Salad (in Greek).  I usually change it in some/several ways, but her original recipe is tasty, so I'll write it here.

  • 1 good sized beet (about 6 oz) or two smaller ones
  • 4 T chopped walnuts
  • 1 slice stale white bread, or you could use a small boiled potato
  • 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 6 T olive oil
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 t salt, or to taste
Boil the beet in its skin until soft, about 40 minutes.  Drain, peel, and let cool.  Chop coarsely.  Throw everything in a food processor and blend until smooth.

That's what Madhur says to do.  I've done all that and almost none of it.  Sometimes I don't have bread- it is just fine left out, although it has a more "vegetable" texture instead of a starchier one.  I've never used a potato. I've also left the walnuts out, but they make it really good.  I've added cumin and cilantro, lemon juice instead of vinegar, parsley and chives.  I'm pretty sure I used a touch of tahini once instead of walnuts, with good results....  Just play around and see what happens.  Serve with a nice crust bread or handmade crackers by Ashley.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Late Autumn at Alezxanna Farm
November 12th 2011

To Start
Sequatchie Cove Lamb Liver Pâté
With River Ridge Farm chicken livers and Link 41 bacon

William’s Island Farm Beet Pâté
    With no livers at’all

Served with Sequatchie Cove’s  Cumberland cheese, Ashley’s handmade rosemary crackers, and Pocket Farm hakuri turnips

With Circle S Farm baby squash,  Crabtree roasted green peppers, and Sonrisa’s whole wheat flour

Sweet Potato Tortellini
With Sequatchie Cove shiitake; served in a warm lamb broth

The Feast

Sequatchie Cove Farm Beef Roast
Braised with shiitake mushrooms and Bill’s vino

Riverview Farm Grits
Layered with Cumberland cheese and Fall Creek Farm butternut squash, and Alexzanna herbs

Marinated Garbanzo Salad
With William’s Island Farm kale, Circle S cauliflower, and Crabtree kohlrabi

Signal Mtn Farm Lettuce Salad
    With Crabtree pea shoots, Tant Hill asian green mix, and Pocket Farm arugula

To Finish

Fall Creek Farm Apple Torte
 With Louisiana grown Asian persimmons and Sonrisa’s whole wheat flour

Featuring (and Many Thanks to)…. 

All beautiful and colorful wine and water glasses are made by Prentice Hicks and donated for use during this dinner.  They can be taken home to drink from and brighten your every day.  They are 2nds and specially priced.  Please ask for prices

Cute and pretty tea cups that held your tortellini, a few plates, small bud vases, and some serving bowls are made by Anderson Bailey, and are also donated for use during this dinner. They are the elegant, mostly white pieces.  They too can be taken home (or purchased for holiday gifts perhaps?).  Please ask for prices.

Flowers are from my own yard and Alexzanna Farm, lovingly and beautifully arranged by Jennie Bartoletti

Of course this dinner would have been nothing but empty plates and stomachs without our dedicated and hardworking farmers and food artisans- William’s Island Farm, Sequatchie Cove Farm and Creamery, River Ridge Farm, Signal Mountain Farm, Crabtree Farm, Tant Hill Farm, Circle S Farm, Pocket Farm, Riverview Farm, Sale Creek Honey, and Fall Creek Farm were all extremely important in the making of this dinner.  They are all at Main Street Farmer’s Market- along with many other farms producing equally delicious produce and meat.

Thanks to our gracious hosts Suzanna and Lawrence for opening the doors of their beautiful home and letting us enjoy it for the evening.

 And last, but decidedly not least- Many thanks to all of you- the  supporters of local farmers and craftspeople.  You choose to make this community better and more alive every day.  I look forward to seeing you all at the Main Street Farmers Market throughout the season-which never ends!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Comin' on Thanksgiving

The leaves have turned, they days are getting shorter, the shade is chilly but the sun still hot.  The air is a crisp crunchy blue, no longer sodden with humidity. It's a season-change and we all know it, no matter how disconnected we are from the outdoors.   Farmers react to it and respond.  "First frost" means something out there in the fields and the peppers had better be in by the first freeze or they'll turn to mush.  Even from our sheltered inside-lives we can look out the kitchen window and know that something's in the air.  And shopping at the farmer's market is different too.  Pumpkins, winter squash, greens, and sweet potatoes?  Is something starting to look familiar?   Is it beginning to feel a bit like Thanksgiving?

Of course, like most of our holidays, the true origin of Thanksgiving is all but lost.  I won't even delve into this, because I think we all know what we've lost in the translation of the years.  But maybe it did all start with an act of kindness, sharing, of generosity.  For the sake of romance, let's just run with that.  And Thanksgiving is something really special.  It's a day of true American culture, one of the only.  All countries who have gained independence from another have an Independence Day, and most of our other holidays are strange consumer-oriented versions of religious or pagan celebrations.   But Thanksgiving, although similarly celebrated in cultures and communities over the world in the form of autumn/harvest-festivals, is all ours.  And that is important for a society.  America is a big place, with lots of different people from lots of different backgrounds.  It's such a large country that it almost doesn't make sense; a child that lives in countries all over the world, raised by many parents and is now a hulking giant, unsure of what its beliefs are and what background to carry.

I realized the other day (again and again, for some reason I think about this a lot) how young our country is.  We really want that deep-rooted culture, that sense of belonging and place.  That's what Community is all about.  When you read articles about "true southern food", about the barbecue joints and the fried chicken, it's not really about the pork or the chicken, it's about us.  It gives us that comforting sense of belonging and familiarity.  If it was an article truly about the pork or the chicken, it would be a story of terror and sadness- glimpses of the small hog farmer leaving the land because they can no longer afford to keep it, factory-farmed meat, dangerous slaughterhouses, trucks shipping animals across the country and back.     But seriously, who wants to hear that? Let's talk about the sauce, and how it's different from their sauce, how our pork is smoked right, how ours is pulled right, how ours is ours.  It's our culture and it's something to be proud of.

O and it is.   Thanksgiving, our American holiday, is something to be proud of.  It is the one day of the year where the whole point is family, friends, food, and seasonality.  We eat traditional autumn foods- heavy and comforting, preparing ourselves for the dark cold road of Winter to come.  We join together in the kitchen and give thanks for the folks around us, and the bounty of food that the earth has given us.    And some of us keep an eye (or two) on the football score....whatever makes you happy.

The nice thing about our culture is that we have not really strayed so far from the beaten path.  For the first couple hundred years of our young and fast-growing country, we really did have those things we are still proud of.  The hogs were raised by neighbors, and the chicken fried by grandmothers.   The templates are still there- the sweet potato casserole, the roasted turkey, the cranberry sauce (a little northern, but they're still seasonal).  We don't have to purchase these things from the grocery store because they aren't exotic- they belong to us, and to the land around us.   All we have to do is step in and reclaim it, buy food from our neighbors,  support our community, and make our culture thrive.  Then we'll really have something to give Thanks about.

Stop by the Main Street Farmer's Market next Wednesday the 16th, or the special Thanksgiving date Tuesday the 22nd and pick up your Thanksgiving meal.   Look for seasonal recipe ideas on all the farmer's booths, and don't forget to try something new! (like turnips).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Coffee Rubbed Lamb Ribs and Butternut Soup

I've said it before, but I'm gonna say it again.  It's not me, it's the lamb.  I promise.  If you think you don't like lamb, it's because you've never had this lamb.  Meaning, katahdin lamb grassfed out in the Sequatchie Cove.  It's just so different than the "other stuff"-whatever you've had before that you think you don't like.  It's mild, it's tender, it was raised correctly under the sunshine with love, it wasn't shipped from all the way around the world (not that there's anything wrong with New Zealand as a place, it's just an awfully long way to ship something that is also raised almost in your back yard).  And best of all, it is literally almost impossible to mess up.  I don't know what it is, but I have yet to ruin any lamb dish.  You could burn it, but I bet it would still be good underneath.  It stays tender and succulent no matter what- even if you forget and overcook it.  Try it.  It will change your life.  O, and PS, they aren't itty bitty and cute when you eat them- they look like sheep.  Which makes us all feel better somehow.

Ribs with the Rub

I pretty much took this directly from Barbecue! Bible by Steven Raichlen, plus or minus a few things (cardamom).  It was meant for a brisket in the book, but works on lamb just fine.  I bet it would work on about anything.
  • 1/2 cup finely ground good coffee- may I suggest anything from Velo?
  • 1/2 cup (but I'd use a tad bit less next time) kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Hungarian paprika
  • 2 T ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup chopped garlic
This should be about 2 cups- enough for 6-8 pounds of meat.  Rub this (the recipe makes it "wet" by including oil, but you don't need this on a fatty meat) all over the ribs, fold them up in a baking dish and set them in the refrigerator from a few hours to as long as overnight.  

Preheat the oven to very low- around 275 or 300 degrees F.  Cover the ribs tightly with aluminum foil.   I had so many ribs that they were all stacked on top of each other in the dish.  This turned out to be fine.  Place them in a single layer if you desire, unrolled.  If not, just unroll them and stack them on top pf each other.   Cook til the ribs are done and tender and pulling away from the bones at the ends- about 2-3 hours, depending on the size and how hot the oven is.    Take the ribs out of the pan (they should be sitting in a nice fatty paprika colored liquid), put them on a platter and clean your baking dish.  Place the ribs back in the clean dish and pour a touch of white wine and tomato juice on top.  You can let these cool and put them in the fridge now until you are ready to eat, and reheat them later OR heat the oven to 350 degrees and cook them, uncovered, til slightly more crispy- about 25 or 30 minutes.  Slice into portions of about 3 ribs and serve warm.    If you have chilled them, let ribs come to room temp before reheating.

Butternut Soup

For about four-six people. 
  • 1 medium butternut squash- halved
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t nutmeg
  • 1/2 t garam masala
  • 1 T oil, butter, lard
  • 1 potato, washed and cubed
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 t minced chile, or 1/2 t dried cayenne
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh ginger root
  • 2 lime leaves, or 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 4 cups chicken or veggie broth, or just water
  • Salt to taste
Bake the butternut, cut side down, on a pan with a small amount of water at 350, til the thickest part is soft when poked (about 45 minutes, maybe less).  Let cool just a smidge, if you'd like.  Then scoop out the flesh and put it in a bowl- compost the skin.  Stir in the cinnamon, nutmeg, masala, and a touch of salt into the squash and let sit while you prepare the rest.

Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot til warm, then throw in the garlic, ginger, and hot pepper,  followed by the potato.  Add a touch of salt and saute til fragrant.  Add the broth and cook til the potatoes are done- about 15 minutes.  Let cool slightly, then blend briefly til smooth.

This is the way I do it, so I don't have to juggle between the blender and pots and bowls:  I blend the liquid with whatever else goes in the soup, then I blend the squash separately til smooth, then I dump it all together and stir to combine.  

When everything is smooth and combined, add the lemongrass or lime leaves, taste for salt and add as needed (but remember the leaves will help add depth as it cooks, so don't over salt it at this point).  Simmer for about 30 minutes more.  Or, better yet, simmer about 15 minutes, let cool, refrigerate, and reheat and eat it the next day (soup's always better the next day).  

Serve warm.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Fall Feast with Velo Coffee
  October 29th 2011      

To Start

Spring Rolls with a Coffee Dipping Sauce
With Crabtree Farm pea shoots and Sequatchie Cove arugula and cilantro

Sequatchie Cove Cumberland Cheese Puffs
With Sequatchie Cove eggs and rosemary from my yard

Beet Fritters
    With William’s Island Farm beets

Riverview Farm Butternut Soup

The Feast

Sequatchie Cove Farm Lamb Ribs
Rubbed with Velo’s Rwanda coffee

Riverview Farm Red Cornmeal Muffins
With Sequatchie Cove Farm sage

Butterbeans and TiRoc October Beans
With William’s Island Farm kale and collards

Arugula and Lettuce Salad
            With Crabtree sweet peppers and a dressing made with Ashley’s mustard, Sale Creek Honey
 and Velo coffee

To Finish

Fall Creek Farm Apple Cake
 With Velo coffee glaze with nutmeg and “true” cinnamon
from the island of Dominica

Featuring (and Many Thanks to)…. 

All beautiful and colorful wine and water glasses are made by Prentice Hicks and donated for use during this dinner.  They can be taken home to drink from and brighten your every day.  They are 2nds and specially priced.  Please ask for prices

Various bowls (big and small), cups, a few plates, and vases (small and big) are made by Anderson Bailey, and are also donated for use during this dinner, as well as displayed around the walls.  He is here enjoying himself amongst you and wares can be bought directly from him.

Flowers are from my own yard and Crabtree Farm, lovingly and beautifully arranged by Jennie Bartoletti

Of course this dinner would have been nothing but empty plates and stomachs without our dedicated and hardworking farmers and food artisans- William’s Island Farm, Sequatchie Cove Farm and Creamery, Signal Mountain Farm, TiRoc Farm, Riverview Farm, Sale Creek Honey, Fall Creek Farms, Velo Coffee, and Crabtree Farm were all extremely important in the making of this dinner.  They are all at Main Street Farmer’s Market- along with many other farms producing equally delicious produce and meat.

Thanks to our gracious hosts Andrew and Jessica for opening the doors of their beautiful home (and work-space) and letting us enjoy it for the evening.

 And last, but decidedly not least- Many thanks to all of you- the  supporters of local farmers and craftspeople.  You choose to make this community better and more alive every day.  I look forward to seeing you all at the Main Street Farmers Market throughout the season!

 * Lamb and soup recipes soon to follow!

Saturday, October 22, 2011



We simply let the sun shine and learn to soak it up

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


The smell and taste of muscadines captures the true essence of fall.   The smell of them fallen on the ground and fermenting brings joy to both me and the honey bees.  This year we went to a vineyard outside of the city and picked muscadines, where we were accompanied by many of the said bees.  They reminded me of this, although it happens at a different time of year, different side of the country, and different winged creature it's still the same joyous outcome:

On a certain day in the shouting springtime great clouds of orangy Monarch butterflies, like twinkling aery fields of flowers, sail high in the air on a majestic pilgrimage across Monerey Bay and land in the outskirts of Pacific Grove in the pine woods.  The butterflies know exactly where they are going.  In the millions they land on several pine trees- always the same trees.  There they suck the thick resinous juice which oozes from the twigs, and they get cockeyed.  The first comers suck their fill and then fall drunken to the ground, where they lie on a golden carpet, waving their inebriate legs in the air and giving off butterfly shouts of celebration, while their places on the twigs are taken by new, thirsty millions.  
John Steinbeck, Sweet Thursday

thanks Luke

Crawl under the drooping vines and there you'll share a world of rich ripe red, pink, or golden fruits in various stages of ripeness with the bees, who themselves are in various stages of drunkenness, all shouting the same  joyous yells of celebration.

yeah, thanks Luke

I came home and made a few things to remember that by.

Muscadine Jam

My grandmother is the only one who usually makes this, and now I know why.  It is time consuming and you must be patient.  The result is better than anything you could hope for though, so it's completely worth it.  I took this recipe directly from Canning For a New Generation, with the exception that it was made with Concords in the book.  I would prefer muscadines anyway.

  • 4 pounds muscadines red, pink, and/or golden (although it helps to have a fair amount of red, to give the jam a nice rich color), stemmed and rinsed
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 T fresh lemon juice
Sterilize 4 half-pint jars in boiling water and keep them hot in the canning pot while you proceed..

Squeeze the grapes one-by-one from their hulls.  It helps to have help, preferably someone who likes the smell of muscadines as much as you do.  Put the hulls in a bowl or saucepan and the pulp in another large saucepan.  Bring the pulp to a boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the seeds separate from the pulp.  Pour it all into a sieve held over a large saucepan, or ladle batches in the sieve.  Press as much pulp as you can through the sieve with a rubber spatula; discard the seeds.  Add the sugar and about 1/2 of the hulls.  Stir in to melt the sugar and add more hulls to make it nice and thick.  The jam will thicken slightly as it cooks, but it will be more of a preserve, not super thick or gelatinous like jelly.  Some like more skins than others- I added a little over 3/4 of the hulls back and saved the rest for juice.  

Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until a small dab of the jam spooned onto a chilled plate and then returned to the freezer for a moment becomes somewhat firm, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir gently for a few seconds to distribute the hulls in the liquid.

Sterilize the jar lids by pouring boiling water over them, or dunking them in a pot of boiling water for a minute. Be careful not to boil the lids, as that might break down the seals.  Ladle the hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch head-space and process in a boiling-water bath for about 5 minutes.

Store unsealed jars in the fridge and sealed ones amongst your other jars of relishes, pickles, and jams in a cool dark place.

Muscadine Juice

As Liana Krissoff says in Canning for a New Generation:
To make grape juice (for quaffing rather than for jelly), crush the grapes, simmer them (with some whole spices or herb springs (not needed for muscadines I say!), strain, let sit overnight, then strain again.  Return the juice to the pan and add water to dilute it (pure grape juice can be a little intense), add sugar if it needs it (it probably won't), and a bit more lemon juice if desired.  Bring to a boil and then ladle into sterilized pint of quart jars, leaving 1/2 inch head-space, put the lids and rings on, and process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

I added neither water nor sugar to mine and left it as a concentrate, as I didn't know how I would like to use it later.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


The first and most important step for this recipe, I found, is to have a nice set of small bowls.  Not small like small soup bowls, but small like salt bowls.  Like the ones made by The One and Only Anderson Bailey (at least the one and only who makes gorgeous salt bowls).  These bowls have many uses, big and small, and will take you far in life, I promise.

Onigiri are easier than they look, but next time I am going to flavor the rice up more.  The recipe I used was from Canning For a New Generation by Liana Krissoff and it didn't call for anything in the rice.  I added a little salt and quite a bit of rice vinegar and bit of honey, but it was still a bit bland for my taste.  Next time I think I'll make some real sushi vinegar by soaking some kombu in the rice vinegar, and that might help give the rice some of the ever-desired umami.
  • 2 cups sushi rice
  • Stuffins such as fermented or pickled veggies.  I used a mixture of kimchee and  fried bacon, all chopped up and crumbly.  Use whatever you want to fill- just make sure it is strong and salty.
  • Sushi Vinegar (or rice vinegar mixed with a little sugar and some kind of salt- you can use soy sauce or dulce flakes if you don't mind the rice not being pristine)
  • Nori
Rinse the rice well, until the water runs clear.  This helps it from becoming super gunky.  Put it in a medium saucepan with 2 1/4 cup of water.  Lisa says to let it soak for 30 minutes, but I just went ahead and cooked mine without soaking.  Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a small simmer for about 10 minutes, or til the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender.  Sushi rice is a little trickier than long-grain rice, and a little fickle as well.  It is important to not peak while it's cooking, maybe just look once to make sure that water is still simmering.  And don't stir it, as it will get gluey.  When it is done remove it from the stove, take off the lid, and put a clean, wet dishtowel on top.  Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.

When the rice has cooled some, scoop it into a bowl, break it up with a wooden paddle, and pour about 1/4 a cup of the vinegar over it.  Fold the vinegar gently but thoroughly into the rice, taste it, and add more vinegar until it tastes good.  The filling for the onigiri should be rich and salty so don't give the rice too much flavor, as you want a nice contrast.  Again cover the rice with a wet towel and keep it there as you work out of the bowl.

Fill a bowl with warm water and set it aside to dip your fingers into.  This is the secret to keep sticky rice from sticking to your hands.  Line a very small bowl or teacup (or several) with a small piece of plastic wrap.  I have never bought plastic wrap before in my life (seriously!) until I made these.  It works very nicely though,  and now I have some on hand for next time.   Wet your fingers and pluck about a 1/4 a cup of rice from the bowl.  Roughly shape it into a ball, make a dent in the center, and spoon a teaspoon of the filling inside.  Pull the plastic wrap over the rice ball and twist to close.  As you do this the rice will wrap itself around the filling. Don't worry if some filling oozes out.  You will cover the bottom with nori anyway. Set aside.

Repeat until the rice is gone and you have a whole lot of nice tidy rice balls.  You may unwrap and eat them immediately  or put them still wrapped in the fridge for later.   To serve, tear a small squarish rectangle from a sheet of nori, take the plastic off the onigiri, and press the nori square around the bottom.  Enjoy by itself, or serve with a dipping sauce if desired.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

THIS is Summer

Friends, tomatoes, family, panting dogs, swimming, time to balance rocks and listen to the cicadas buzzing....