Fauxmeboshi

This summer, a farmer I know had a box of these little plums on sale. They made for good fresh eating, but their size and rusty purple color made me think instantly of umeboshi. They’re not the same fruit—ume plums are more like apricots, and are picked yellow-green and not fully ripe—but I figured it would be worth giving them the same treatment.

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In My Time Of Drying

After a sublimely warm and clear September, October’s colder and wetter demeanor imparted an urgency to my hitherto lackluster gleaning in the garden. It’s nice again now, but in my tizzy of frantic autumnal gathering I did manage to get a fair amount of food harvested and arrayed on various surfaces to dry out for storage.

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Bust A Capsicum

Espelette peppers, named for the town in Basque France that made them famous, are a unique food. Dried and ground, they have a particular aromatic quality: earthy and yet bright at the same time, with a fairly gentle but insistent heat that represents (in general, based on my own anecdotal experience) the upper limit of most French palates’ tolerance for spiciness. The great hams of Bayonne are cured with copious pepper, and it gives them a gorgeous flavor and tint. It’s not really a cooking spice, but rather a finishing one, especially given how much money a small jar commands. A pinch sprinkled on top of fish, chicken, or potatoes (or a hundred other things) adds an irresistible trebly zing and a not insignificant coloristic bump.

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Cut And Dried

One of the things the garden forcefully teaches is the vivd difference in flavor between things we grow ourselves and even those things we pay the full yuppie markup for at the local health/organic emporium. For years I bought the herbes de Provence blend at the local Health Mart™ and used it, often liberally, in many dishes. The blend of thyme, rosemary, oregano (and/or marjoram) and lavender (and sometimes fennel, and more) is pretty much Mediterranean in a jar when it comes to giving your meats and sauces that certain fragrant, resinous quality that’s instantly recognizable. Add a few fat pinches to a pan of tomato purée, and it’s pizza sauce. Like that.  Keep reading Cut And Dried…

Seeing Red

This time every year I order lots of Blue Beech tomatoes for making purée and sauce to get us through until the beginning of the next tomato season. Blue Beech are a variety of paste tomato that can be cooked with skins and seeds and still remain wonderfully sweet, so processing them is dead easy: I trim the stem end, halve them , and throw them in the pot to cook down and disintegrate. Then I stick-blend the whole thing and run it in batches through the food mill to catch the skin fragments and seeds. It saves a lot of time, especially when dealing with a hundred pounds of them at a time as I did recently.

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Like Salt, Only Better

There are dozens of posts out there about preserved lemons, so to avoid redundancy I thought I’d take the idea one step further and share an idea I had a while back. Preserved lemons are an item that my pantry is never without. They’re easy to make and keep forever, and their bright, unmistakeable flavor is essential to a variety of dishes, particularly Moroccan. What I love about them is that to the nose, they smell candied; it’s impossible to tell that it’s salt that has concentrated their flavors rather than sugar. That sweet, lemony aroma permeates any dish they’re added to, but when the lemons are gone the salt that worked its osmotic magic on them has accrued a great deal of interest in the process. This may already be a thing, but I haven’t heard of it before: preserved lemon salt.

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Cans Of Whup-Ass

Right before Irene hit I went into the garden and preemptively picked all the ripe and semi-ripe tomatoes and peppers, figuring that the winds might bring down the trellises and damage the fragile fruit. It turned out to be prescient, since though the paste tomato trellis is still standing, the other one took the brunt of the tree’s impact and there’s not much left but a few bright cherry tomatoes visible through a tangle of busted-up vines. On the plus side, I had a big pile of beautiful nightshades just begging to be transformed into one of my late-summer specialties: smoked salsa.

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In Print

Right after Thanksgiving I semi-accidentally got a job as the food writer for Chronogram magazine. My first piece, about salt pickling and curing, is out now in the January issue.

You can read . . . → Read More: In Print

Yes We Can

Funny how my prediction came true and today was completely- and I mean all the way- devoted to dealing with Fruit Mountain. 18 quarts of applesauce (ingredients: apples) and 21 pints of wicked hot spicy peach-habañero chutney that also included lime basil, red onion, and cider vinegar that I infused with cinnamon, pepper (pink & black,) cardamom, star anise, bay, fenugreek, and mustard seeds. I also added some honey to balance the vinegar and let the peaches be all peachy-like.

I could write a bunch of breathless paragraphs about how primal and satisfying it is to put fruit up, and funny lines about how peeling 200 peaches (even with a little blanch) is roughly as enjoyable as removing my own upper lip with a wire brush, or wax eloquent about the healthy purity of the applesauce and the kick-ass multi-purposeness of the chutney. But I won’t. Because I am TIRED. So tired that I ordered dinner from the vegan place in town (which is a 2-minute walk from here, and our best takeout option by far.) And I popped another Bret Bos. Pouilly-Fuissé to elevate the perfectly decent food to a richer gustatory stratum. And it was good.

I will say that we now have a winter’s worth of pleasure stored up, and all this fatigue and grouchiness will soon be replaced by months of pleasure as we steadily open little jars of sunshine. And you should see the kid put away this applesauce. I’m . . . → Read More: Yes We Can

Hotness Cubed

Yesterday was Milo’s fourth birthday, so we let him choose dinner. “Pizza” was the verdict. So I made pizza dough and tomato sauce, and pulled other ingredients from the fridge. The pizzas were well received. True story.

Today, in between trying to keep an eye on him while he tear-assed around the driveway on his new bike ($10 from the used bike guy in town, and the best ratio of glee to expense I have ever seen) I tried to get on top of the garden by weeding, thinning, and picking the things that needed to be weeded, thinned, and picked. From the picked things, I made a variety of first-rate condiments. First, some sambal. As you can see, there are many kinds (including the ancestor sauce to Ketchup) but here I was trying to duplicate some that friends brought us from Holland last winter- it was hot, but with ginger, kaffir lime, and sugar to balance it out. We went through two pint jars of it in no time- honestly, my wife would have injected it straight into her veins if she could have. Since our hot peppers are going off like fireworks right now, I tried to use a bunch of them up in a few different ways.

For the sambal, I chopped the cayenne peppers with Thai and lime basil, red onion, garlic, dried shrimp, and ginger, then mashed it all into a paste in the suribachi with some lime juice . . . → Read More: Hotness Cubed

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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