26 April 2009

"Think Green Eat Blue"*

"Thus, food is a product both natural and cultural,

and good cooking must be said to begin with good farming."
Wendell Berry
"A Nation Rich in Natural Resources"
Home Economics

Blue Bird Bistro on Urbanspoon

Blue Bird Bistro hosts a Farmers' Table each month featuring a set menu (vegetarian option available) of all local food ("five courses of all local culinary delight" says the menu) and an opportunity to meet and mingle with local farmers over local aperitifs and local hors d'oeurves. It is a splendid experience that I have had the pleasure of enjoying twice now. Last night's featured farmer was Thane Palmberg from Thane Palmberg Farm in DeSoto, Kansas. Hors d'oeurves were blanched sweet potato slices from Thane Palmberg Farm topped with a gorgeous dollop of cheese and herbs; the aperitif was "Most Wanted" Missouri Whiskey. We enjoyed these treats while chatting with Jane Zieha (the owner of Blue Bird) and Thane Palmberg and his wife, Edith, discussing our favorite vegetables, our favorite dishes, our favorite ways to prepare chard, how best to freeze okra and so on. It was delightful.

All that talk about food whetted our appetites and we headed back downstairs to be seated for the five course meal. I savored, enjoyed, loved, and photographed every course, although these images don't do justice to the complexity of textures or delicacy of flavors.

Oh, and did I mention that it's all local?

Thane Palmberg Farm spinach trio - mousse, soup and flash fried spinach

house made cannelloni stuffed with house made Campo Lindo Farm chicken sausage, house made Green Hills Dairy ricotta and Organic Way farm arugula
(vegetarian substitution for the chicken: local Beau Soleil oyster mushrooms)

warm Missouri Northern Pecan encrusted La Ferme du Bonheur goat cheese topped with Beau Soli Farm pea shoots tossed in house made red wine vinegar

Green Dirt Farm spring lamb stew nestled in a house made bread bowl
(vegetarian substitute for lamb: risotto stew)

finish with Organic Way Farm blackberry roulade drizzled with Lisa’s mint puree
(ps: that's Missouri port in that glass)

*"Think Green Eat Blue" was written on the sidewalk chalkboard at Blue Bird Bistro.

25 April 2009

Spring Mix

The Brookside Farmers Market has been open for two weeks now and I finally went today. I have a big end-of-semester paper to work on this weekend but I abandoned it for a couple of hours to get my farmers market fix. So I took the bus to the market and read the whole way (Greeting Cards: Individuality and Authenticity in Mass Culture, for my paper).

writing my last final paper

The market, indeed the neighborhood, was bustling, even though the vendors and produce were springtime sparse. I wasn't looking for much anyway - I have no time to cook anything too elaborate this week, what with my paper deadline looming large. I was just craving something - anything - green, green, green.

People who have gardens or yards or at least porches were buying plants and transplants - herbs, tomatoes, nasturtiums, et. al. So promising. But I bypassed all of those and went straight to the food at the KC Center for Urban Agriculture stand: salad greens galore, "micro mix" and scallions, kale that someone else bought, broccoli raab that I bought after Katherine (KCCUA farmer, director) urged me and instructed me on cooking methods (you braise it in olive oil and garlic, by the way, and add some asiago). A couple of bread vendors were there - Bread of Life (I bought a pizza crust) and Roaring River Bread Company (I got the last ciabatta). And I bought Green Dirt Farm cheese and "jumbo" eggs from some farmers that I've never bought from before because they sell mostly meat. I used every last dollar in my pocket and came home with many good things and lots of green. I'm so glad it's market season again.

salad spinning

I finally broke down and bought a salad spinner this year. I usually resist the notion of kitchen gadgetry, but I frequently succumb to the ones that look like they'll save time. The 'smarttouch' Zyliss Salad Spinner functions as a colander and a serving bowl as well so I justified the space it will take in my kitchen and bought the smallest one they had at Function Junction. I broke it out of the box today and took my micro mix and salad mix from the market for a spin. The truth is that if you wanted to dry your greens by wrapping them in a kitchen towel and swinging them over your head slingshot style, you could successfully achieve the same degree of water removal as you can with the salad spinner. But I can assure you that the cheaper, slingshot method will result in a water-sprayed kitchen and a surprisingly wet towel, circumstances which the salad spinner will enable you to avoid.

salad having spun

So now I have a dry kitchen and four servings of salad to last me into the week, until next Saturday's market by which time maybe I'll have more of my paper written and can spend more time at the market and can buy more food and can cook more. Although there is that final final exam to study for.

A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening

As luck would have it, our Friday night plans did not conflict. The film we wanted to see at the KC Film Festival started at 5:15 and finished just in time for us to make it to the 7:00 reading at The Writers Place. What fortune.

The film is called "Crude Independence" one of our co-workers is related to the producer and told us about the film. It's about a small town - Stanley, North Dakota - that had been a long-standing, struggling but happy farming community until recently, when the area was the site of the largest oil find in North American history, and thus the site of many tenuous changes. The film was very smartly crafted and the story was tellingly unrolled. (See this for an interesting review.) It is deserving of a release beyond festivals.

While the credits were running for "Crude Independence," we hustled out of the theater - the Power and Light District's fabulous new AMC Mainstreet theatre, which doesn't officially open for another week but which I've been to twice already - and we hustled to midtown to The Writers Place to hear John Peterson, a writer at Hallmark, and Pat Daneman, a creative director at Hallmark, read their incredible, moving work. I do love to hear people read their work at The Writers Place. And I particularly enjoy it when it's people I know.

After the readings, there was mingling over refreshments (John had even made hummus and tapenade - as if writing and reading poetry weren't enough for one evening) and several of us were chitchatting about talented people at Hallmark. Pat said she had to muster up courage to come to work each day and work with such brilliant geniuses. Which I thought was a funny thing for her to say since I think she is one of them and it is I who feels daunted (but pleased) at the thought of having such talented co-workers.

18 April 2009

Hot and Cold

Thai Place on Urbanspoon

It was so dreary and rainy when we got up today, so we decided poutingly to spend the entire day indoors. But as the gray day wore on I developed quite the hankerin' for Thai food. As my craving and hunger grew, the sun actually came out so I suggested we walk a few blocks over to Arun Thai, an all time favorite in our restaurant repertoire. Arun Thai Place Grill is the downtown version of The Thai Place and offers our same favorite menu items from there: Panang Curry and Sen Mee Pad See Eaw. Rarely do we order anything else besides these two dishes and on those strange instances when we have it has always left us with longing. So we stick to our standard.

Tonight we were seated next to an unhappy pair of diners; while we were ordering our comfort food, they were demanding a conference with the manager. When she arrived she received an earful of arrogant complaints and a bitter harangue. She handled everything with grace as the upset customer repeatedly asserted what he believed was his superior knowledge of the appropriate cooking methods for the dish he ordered (and had already consumed, by the way). On and on it went past the point of reason. I had noticed when we came in that the woman with him was wearing a name badge with "Our Lady of Sorrows" on it. I enjoyed imagining this man wearing one that said "Our Lord of Perpetual Dissatisfaction."

Meanwhile, our food had arrived and oh my goodness how does it manage to taste better every time I eat it? We had upped our order from mild to medium as we often do, and both dishes rang perfectly with fire. It was a lovely, welcome burn that made me cry. The Sen Mee Pad See Eaw is a giant collection of noodles, veg, and tofu stir fried to perfection. The Panang is divine, rich, and creamy and makes my heart ache for peanut allergy sufferers. Both meals together are so delightful in their own right and make a nice pairing. As we dug in, Sergio asked me which one I'd choose if I had to choose only one and I honestly could not face the thought.

After dinner we headed the 7 or so blocks south to the Power and Light District. (It's amazing how close everything downtown seems with the sun is shining and the weather is nice.) I requested that we stop in at Yummo for something chill to counter the spice. I've been so anxious to try Yummo since I learned of it last winter, but was waiting until it didn't feel like frozen yogurt outside to try the frozen yogurt inside. Yummo is local, owned by the same folks who own Chefburger (which is right next door) and Souperman (which offers a selection of their soups at Yummo) and features the same well-honed menu, pristine design, and charm that I've come to expect. The yogurt is all self-serve as are the plethora of toppings. Everything is simply 49 cents an ounce. You can get as much or as little as you want and they'll even make you a smoothie. All the calorie counts are listed above the self serve machines and surprisingly aren't that bad. It's a brilliant business model. And on top of it all, the Green Tea, Pistachio, and Cappuccino yogurts that I had were indeed delicious.

I can't wait to go back for more.

Yummo on Urbanspoon

11 April 2009

Mirna's birthday

Vegan Thai With Nancy Stark - April 10, 2009

Yesterday was my friend Mirna's birthday and her husband Chris had the brilliant idea to surprise her with a cooking class with friends at The Cooking Studio. It was perfect. Mirna was completely surprised and we all had a wonderful time learning and eating. Since it was Mirna's special day, I tried to leave most of the fun to her. But I couldn't help but enjoy myself too. Our chef was Nancy Stark who was such a great instructor; so clear and informative. Everything made so much sense the way she explained it. I learned a lot. And the food was delicious. Everything was precisely "Spicy Sour Hot Sweet" - the requisite flavors for Thai food, so we learned. We had potstickers and lettuce wraps, green papaya salad, pad thai with tofu, and lemongrass ginger sorbet. Even the sorbet was spicy, a remarkable accomplishment indeed. It made for the perfect cap to a lovely evening and birthday meal.

welcome and intro from Chef Nancy

C & M

Chef Nancy and potsticker filling

Thai Coconut Curry Lettuce Wraps and Potato Curry Potstickers

noodles a-glow

Green Papaya Salad

Pad Thai + Sweet Chile-Garlic Sauce

Lemongrass Ginger Sorbet

07 April 2009

A Weekend in OKC: a photo essay

Kim's shower

so many lovely gifts

it's a boy

Mom planted herbs

the sun was shining

Dad launched a whirlybird seed pod

I launched several of them

Papa's Potato Parachute took flight, briefly

more cupcakes, these from Cuppies and Joe

good to the last crumb

and morsel

Eli and June

fun with friends and babies at dinner at Courtney's

Sunday lunch at Mema's

Mexican food on the menu at Mema's

including a roasted poblano

time to eat


lilacs in the car smelled wonderful all the way home

Local is Relative

local cheese
Originally uploaded by emilyandsergio

I helped to host my friend's baby shower last weekend; my assignment for food was to bring cheese. Oklahoma City is 350 miles from my home base for local goods. But fortunately Oklahoma has some local goods of its own. So my local relative (my mom) directed me to Pure Prairie Creamery cheese from Ada, Oklahoma. I bought a block of Smoky Plains Sunflower Goat Cheddar Cheese and a block of Meadow Garlic Monterey Jack Goat Cheese. Both were delicious and were very well received by the shower guests.

Pure Prairie Creamery has only been around for a year - read about their growth and success here.

02 April 2009

Everything Local

No time to cook, but I made a good dinner anyway using all the delicious stuff I bought at the Expo last Saturday: a fried egg sandwich with rosemary farmstead sheep's cheese, on flax bread + a simple salad with mixed greens, mustard greens, spinach, chives, onions and honey mustard dressing.

And all of it local.