30 May 2009

International Breakfast


Sergio's sister and her family have just moved here from Mexico and on one morning of the Welcome to KC weekend, we fixed crepes (a French food) using a Bosnian recipe and made with ingredients from Kansas and Missouri and served in a tortillero (tortilla holder) from Oklahoma.

I'm not sure what makes the recipe Bosnian except that it comes from our friend Mirna, who's from Bosnia and who got it from her mom - and we file it under the Ps for the Bosnian word for crepes. And the ingredients we used weren't completely local - but some of them were - most of what went into the crepe itself was local.

Crepes are purportedly quite easy to make, unless you're me and need firm quantities of ingredients. Sergio is fortunate enough, as is our friend Mirna, to not need such specificity, therefore he makes the crepes. I arrange everything else: jams, jellies, muesli or granola, yogurt, honey, peanut butter, Nutella, bananas, strawberries, cheese. I know that Nutella and bananas will never be local, but these flavors in a crepe are an experience for which I gladly disregard my food's provenance.

Many other combinations were much more local, including Walloon cheese and tomato jam, strawberries with a touch of yogurt and honey, and the granola is really good on the crepes, too. (If I were a locavore worth my salt I'd be making my own granola but I'll look into that another day.) In the meantime, "bon appetit" and "provecho" and "yum."

tomato jam and Walloon cheese

tomato jam and strawberry rhubarb jam

strawberries from Fair Share Farm - last summer I weeded this patch these came from

(here's what we happened to have on hand)
strawberry rhubard jam* from Golden Ridge Farms
tomato jam* from my cabinet
Walloon cheese* from Goatsbeard Farm
honey* from Ambrose Bees
strawberries* from Fair Share Farm
plain yogurt
peanut butter

Palacinke (Crepes)
mix together...
2 eggs* (jaja izmuckas)
4 Tbsp sugar (velike kasike secera)
pinch of salt (malo soli)
1 Tbsp oil (ulje I kasike)
1 cup flour* - (dodaj brasna)
1 cup milk* - (dodaj mlijeka)
* local

Start with 1 cup each of flour and milk but you may need to add more of either or both, depending on what kind of flour you use - these will work with whole wheat flour you just need to adjust the consistency. The desired consistency is something runnier than pancake batter. But not too runny. Thick, but not too thick.

Spray a skillet with oil and turn the heat on to medium. Pour a ladle full of batter into the skillet. You know it's time to flip the crepe when it firms up a little and slides around a bit. Flip over to the other side and then it'll be done. Soonish. Use your instincts and adjust batter accordingly.

Makes: a varying number of crepes, which translates to a varying number of servings. 4 people and a toddler consumed this entire batch on the above day in question. Best of luck with these nebulous tips.

appropriate consistency

a perfect flip

crepe folded

28 May 2009

The Gospel of Michael Pollan

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
- Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food

Last Wednesday at Unity Temple on the Plaza, after eating a delicious dinner of quinoa ("Pollan's Perfect Food" according to the menu) at Eden Alley, I got to hear Michael Pollan preach. Rainy Day Books hosted him on this visit - his first to KC since Botany of Desire (I was there for that one, too). He, like his books, is clear and compelling, and his notion of "nutritionism" from In Defense of Food, is a refreshingly straightforward and essential way to think about food in our world of mixed marketing messages and competing interests.

We Americans, according to Pollan, have obsessed about health but cannot get healthy. We over-emphasize nutrition but don't eat nutritionally rich food. We have limited our understanding of foods by breaking them down into individual components and processing out everything healthy and natural in order to fixate on one element.

Marketers have been "feeding" us everything they think we need or want to know. Even as consumers become more savvy, marketers step up their game by catering to our health concerns. (Like the ice cream that is called "5" because - in response to consumer concerns - it has no more than five ingredients.)

But the majority of those tidbits and "facts" about food that are going around in the public are as empty and hollow as high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated soy bean oil themselves. And they miss the importance and value of what really matters which is whole foods in their naturally nutritious state. I liked Michael Pollan's final admonition, after his long and entertaining exposition on nutritionism, in which he encouraged us simply to not buy anything you see advertised on TV. That - to me - seems the best way to know you're buying food that has your best interests in mind.

25 May 2009

Buffalo Grass

Friday night at the Badseed Farmers' Market, there was a new vendor on hand - some folks who forage and call themselves the wild alchemists. They had several wild herb tea blends, some mushrooms, and some unique greens. In addition to the edible goods they had a few extra natural elements for sale as well.

For a dollar, I bought this grass bundle that they couldn't identify - a couple of farmers agreed that it was buffalo grass. One farmer even offered to take a sprig home so he could check in his book of prairie grasses to confirm. This bundle is already dry, but still has such a poignant aroma - something nostalgic, but I don't know what. At any rate, it is standing tall on my dining room table and looking so beautiful.

23 May 2009

A Good Morning

I often hear of asparagus and eggs together: Nigella Lawson's asparagus soldiers with soft boiled eggs, asparagus sprinkled with hard boiled eggs, etc. But for some reason I never think to eat them for breakfast, even though it makes perfect sense.

So today's breakfast was Eggs in a Frame - one of my all time favorites. I remembered the few lonely asparagus stalks standing by in the fridge, and it occurred to me that they would go quite nicely with my egg. I sauteéd the spears in olive oil and dressed them liberally with salt and pepper. And I brought out some of last year's tomato jam for something sweet and red.

21 May 2009

Peach Mint Smoothie (in honor of Magazines and Coffee)

A while back there used to be a delightful place called Magazines and Coffee. It was a small, endearing deli-type spot that specialized in (you guessed it) magazines and coffee. It had Kansas City's most thorough array of periodicals, it had delicious coffee, it had TWA decor that gave the whole place great charm. But it also had food and other drinks, too, and I loved to go for lunch and get a Provolone and Basil sandwich and a Mango Mint Smoothie. Mango and mint? I hadn't seen that combo before. But just one sip and I was sold on it.

I was heart broken when Magazines and Coffee had to say good-bye and it's been a long time since I had a Mango Mint Smoothie. When yesterday's CSA share came with a big bunch of mint, I remembered I had frozen peaches (local, from last summer) and frozen peaches make great smoothies. So I made a mostly-local Mango and Peach Mint Smoothie in honor of Magazines and Coffee. It was divine.

Mango and Peach Mint Smoothie

I did not measure anything (rare for me) and had to call on Master Smoothie Maker Sergio for advice. But here's how it goes, roughly:

frozen peaches (local!)
frozen mango (from an undisclosed location - optional)
honey (local!) or agave nectar
milk (local!) or soy milk
mint (local!), chopped very finely
a blender

I used two kinds of mint - last week's and this week's. One has smaller leaves and is thin, the other has larger, thicker leaves and stalks. The two flavors afforded by using both types of mint offered a range of mintiness that was quite nice.

Now if only I had a Provolone and Basil sandwich and the newest issue of something to read.

19 May 2009

Young Turnip, Sweet Potato, and Leek Soup

One of my favorite cookbooks - out of which I have never cooked until tonight - is Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters. I love it because it has gorgeous illustrations and is organized by vegetable, A to Z; and it gives you great insight into each vegetable and tells you everything you need to know about growing and preparing each one.

So tonight I wanted to make Sweet Potato Leek Soup. I had a leek from last week's CSA share; I had a sweet potato I bought from Steve Mann at last Friday's Badseed Farmers Market, but I couldn't find my old recipe, so I went hunting for a new one in Chez Panisse Vegetables. When I couldn't find anything in the Leeks section (except a notation that the French call leeks the "poor man's asparagus") I somehow managed to stumble on this recipe for Turnip and Sweet Potato Soup in the Turnips section. And it just so happens that I had young, tiny, radish-looking turnips on hand also from the Badseed Farmers Market.


The soup works just fine with only sweet potato, even though the recipe calls for a white potato, too. I didn't think it needed one. And I used green onions instead of onion since that's what I had. I love that trick with the sautéed or wilted turnip greens pureed; that pungent concentration was a really nice touch. I suspect it would work well with a number of different kinds of greens.

Young Turnip and Sweet Potato Soup
from Chez Panisse Vegetables
by Alice Waters

2 leeks
1 medium onion
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 1 teaspoon
salt and pepper
6 bunches small young turnips with greens (2 to 3 pounds)
2 russet potatoes
1 small sweet potato
2 quarts chicken stock

ingredients for my vegetarian version for just 2 people using just what I had on hand:
1 leek

3 green onions
olive oil
1 sweet potato
1 bunch of small turnips + greens

4 cups of vegetable broth

salt and pepper
2 drops of liquid smoke

Remove the coarse outer leaves and dark green tops from the leeks, rinse thoroughly, and dice. Peel and dice the onion. Sauté the leeks and onion over medium heat in the butter and cook until soft. Season with salt and pepper.

Trim the greens from the turnips. Reserve the greens of 2 bunches to garnish the soup, and save the rest for another meal. Peel and dice the turnips and potatoes. If the turnips are tender, it is not necessary to peel them. Add the turnips and potatoes to the onions and leeks and stew gently for 5 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. Add the chicken stock and simmer until the potatoes and turnips are fully cooked, about 15 minutes.

Purée in a blender until smooth or pass through a food mill. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Wash the reserved turnip greens and chop roughly. Sauté over high heat in the teaspoon of butter until just wilted. Purée the greems in a blender or pass through a food mill. Serve the soup warm and add a spoonful of the puréed greens to each bowl. Stir the greens into the soup to turn it pale green.

Serves 6 to 8.

18 May 2009


Sergio was headed down to do laundry tonight when he realized he was completely out of quarters. Uh oh! we said sarcastically. Guess we'll have to run to the grocery store and get some. The truth is we were both looking for any reason to drive our new car. We jumped at the chance to run an errand, be it ever so short a trip.

So off we went to Cosentino's, the happiest place on earth, which is just down the street from this new place we've been eying for a few weeks called Savvy. And it just so happened that tonight was Savvy's opening night; we decided to pop in for an espresso before our grocery store jaunt.

Savvy is a coffee and wine bar and has a full array of both on their menu. This little spot is a welcome addition to downtown, and I fervently hope it will balance out the pulsing Power & Light party vibe. It is a stylish and hip place but simple; the menu is plain and straightforward and presented in a slender binder. The coffee menu, however, isn't printed but rather is written in bright neon marker, of all things, on the board above the bar; it stands out like a sore, unstylish, illegible thumb amidst the otherwise coordinated decor.

lemon lime pound cake, espresso torte, and espresso con panna

There are a few appetizers on the menu and some pastries in a large case. Those looked very inviting indeed. Well, while we're here, we might as well have a dessert we figured. And we did. We opted to sample the sweet side of the menu, rather than the savory, though I am curious to return for their cheese flight and wine. In the meantime, I highly recommend the lemon lime pound cake. It is light, tiny, and fresh. It was a welcome morsel to enjoy with my espresso con panna, which was not bad at all; quite a bit of panna, but that's okay.

And off we went to get groceries and quarters. Not bad for laundry night.

Savvy on Urbanspoon

KC Symphony: Beethoven, Shostakovitch, and Brahms

Our last season tickets for the symphony were last weekend, so Saturday we went to hear Beethoven, Shostakovich, and Brahms. We had spent the majority of Saturday shopping for a new car and all that haggling with sales people left me drained and ready for a relaxing evening of music.

The primary piece at this weekend's concert was Shostakovitch's Violin Concerto No. 1, performed by Baiba Skride, a young Latvian violinist, and conducted charismatically by guest conductor Grant Llewellyn. Skride stepped out on stage wearing a sparkling red dress, red like the color of the first car we test drove that morning; Skride has a youthful appearance and looked, for a moment, too young to even have a license to test drive a car. The rest of the orchestra were clad in the usual black which, on that day, reminded me of the color of the car we did end up buying at the end of the day.

Sergio loves Shostakovitch. I, on the other hand, can appreciate the intricacies, the depth, the rich range of sounds ... but as with much of 20th century classical music, I often have a hard time getting my bearings. Skride's intense solos seemed pitted against the orchestra's full voice; the tones seemed uncertain or uneasy. Shostavotich seemed troubled. All a fitting soundtrack for one who is mulling over the negotiations of a sale. I spent all day Saturday trying to get my bearings on the car purchase, never quite finding that plumb line of truth. Much like this concerto.

Skride is a skilled and passionate performer who is, by far, old enough to have a drivers license. (Watch a great video here.) She comes from a thoroughly musical family; she plays the Stradivarius "Wilhelmj" violin (1725), generously on loan to her from Nippon Music Foundation; when she came out to sign her CDs at intermission, she had changed from the sparkling red dress into a plain green shirt and jeans. She looked, simply, like one of us. But none of us are anything like her.

After intermission I savored the Brahms: stable, reliable, metered, and sure. It's music I can see on the page and music I can tap my toe to; music that signifies a world where I can always get my bearings, where I always know what's what and who's who, where I don't have to guess so much. A world that doesn't necessarily exist, I know, but that I take comfort in imagining nonetheless.

Thus ends the 2008-9 season for Sergio and me; we will unfortunately miss the Season Finale with Peter Serkin next weekend. But we will see you in the fall, KC Symphony.

"Symphony of Steel" - Construction is underway for the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts: here's an interesting video of the work done so far - with a curious soundtrack of music and sledge hammering: http://www.kcsymphony.org/video/steel.html

13 May 2009

Lemon Orzo with Roasted Asparagus

our first share of the year

At last the season has begun and what better way to start than with asparagus. I picked up our first share gleefully last night and came home to parcel out one third of the share for our friend Nina, with whom we are sharing our share this year. Then, I cleaned and chopped one head of lettuce for a salad for dinner, and have I mentioned yet my miraculous new kitchen gadget, the salad spinner? I love it more and more every day.

I roasted my asparagus for this, one of my all time favorite dishes. I got it from The Star a couple of years ago and I make it all the time, with green beans when asparagus isn't in season, which is most of the year, of course. But it's superb with asparagus during that slim window in spring. (I used arugula instead of parsley - I wonder if it would work with lovage?)

The salad I made to accompany the orzo and asparagus is comprised of Fair Share Farm lettuce and spring onions, Root Deep Urban Farm arugula and Goatsbeard Farm Walloon cheese (both from Badseed Farmers Market), and almonds from an, ahem, undisclosed location.

Lemon Orzo with Roasted Asparagus + salad

Lemon Orzo with Roasted Asparagus
Makes 4 to 6 servings (as a side dish, 2 to 3 as main)
from The Star

1 cup orzo
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of coarsely ground pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
8 roasted asparagus spears
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley (also works with arugula)
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Combine lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Slowly add oil to juice mixture, stirring constantly with a small whisk or fork, until well blended. Add to pasta and toss to coat. Cool to room temperature. Cut roasted asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Stir in asparagus, parsley and pine nuts.

• One medium lemon equals about 3 tablespoons of juice and 2 to 3 teaspoons zest.
• If you can’t use asparagus the day you buy it, store the stalks upright in a container of water as if it were a flower bouquet.
• To toast pine nuts, bake at 350 degrees 5 to 7 minutes or until just golden. Watch closely so they don’t over brown.
• Roasting is a simple way to prepare asparagus for maximum flavor. To roast asparagus, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Snap ends from asparagus and, if desired, remove scales with a vegetable peeler. Spray baking sheet with nonstick vegetable spray. Layer asparagus on baking sheet and spray generously with nonstick vegetable spray. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until asparagus is tender. If you prefer, roasted green beans would be a great alternative to roasted asparagus in this recipe. Prepare the same as asparagus but bake about 10 to 15 minutes or until tender.

Per serving, based on 4: 224 calories (25 percent from fat), 6 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 35 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams protein, 139 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.

03 May 2009

Pesto Pasta with Pea Shoots and Arugula

Everything I brought home from the market was green, green, green. So when 9:00 rolled around last night and I realized I hadn't had dinner and needed to whip something up quickly, I decided to make something green. A salad yes, but something more. I brought out some pesto from the freezer and made this pasta as the side dish for the giant salad of a million mixed greens. Everything tasted so clean and green. It was the closest a meal could come to tasting like a glass of water.

Pesto Pasta with Pea Shoots and Arugula
4 oz rotini pasta
1 ice cube of pesto
4 strands of pea shoots
4 strands of arugula
Prepare pasta as directed; drain; return pasta to the pot and cover; add the ice cube of pesto and allow to melt; add the pea shoots and arugula and allow to wilt. Top with a tiny, tiny bit of cheese.

Salad of Million Greens
several kinds and colors of lettuce
mixed greens
pea shoots
chinese radish sprouts
green onions
garlic chives
Top with a tiny bit of cheese and a superfluous splash of dressing if you must.

02 May 2009

Fresher than Fresh Snow Cones

Snowie the mascot

I found out about this charming idea last fall at the end of their season and have waited all winter to try one. These are snow cones made all naturally - no artificial, chemical, dubious, specious, untrustworhty, unpronouncable flavorings here. Instead, owner and snow cone doyenne Lindsay Laricks uses real food with real flavor to flavor these real snow cones. ("I think high fructose corn syrup is the devil," says Lindsay). And really, why shouldn't the world include all-natural fun food?

the trademark trailer

The best part of ordering your Fresher Than Fresh snow cone is that the little ice-shaving machine that makes the snow sounds like a drum roll from inside the minty 1957 Shasta trailer. Standing outside the trailer, you hear a tiny, tinny, toy-drum drum roll that prefaces the delicate circus trick that is the snow cone. We ordered one blackberry lavender and one ginger rose and I couldn't believe the flavors; an astonishing performance. The lavender was clear and fresh and brought the blackberries down to earth; the ginger rose was pastel and smooth. No harsh tang, no cloying artificiality. Just pure flavors paired perfectly.

ginger rose and blackberry lavender in 100% compostable cups made of corn

The good news this year is that FTF will have a permanent location on Saturdays in the garden across from Blue Bird Bistro at 1700 Summit. Lindsay will also be dishing up her unique treats on First Fridays in front of Hammerpress. Check out schedules and flavors - including daredevil flavors - on the FTF blog, become a fan of FTF on Facebook, follow FTF on Twitter ... and be sure to stop by in person for a very nice treat in real life.

FTF season opener at Hammerpress on First Friday, May 1

First Friday

gallery space in the Crossroads

Last night was First Friday in the Crossroads district and everyone was out and about. I've missed every First Friday for months - it was nice to go last night when the weather was decent and the sun was out. We had a full roster of events for the evening. Our first stop was Badseed for the Grand Opening of the Friday Farmers Market. I have been so so eager for the start of the season; I could hardly believe it was here. We bought lemon sorrel (greens), two bags of spinach, rice, steel cut oats, cheese, broccoli sprouts, chinese radish sprouts, and green coffee beans which Sergio intends to roast himself. Lots of food. Even so, we were out for the night, not cooking at home, so we scurried down the street for a quick bite - a veggie burger, actually. Sergio's ceremonial first veggie burger since the VB project ended precisely one month ago.

tea herbs at Badseed

There were so many exhibits, events, and openings; we could have made a number of stops throughout the course of the evening but we had our sights set on just a few. First, "Mañana" at Digital Labrador - an exhibit of photography from Nicaragua by Maria Brenny, whose selected works capture a full and diverse range of Nicaraguan impressions. Across the street we joined the crowd around the Fresher Than Fresh Snow Cones trailer (more on that...) and we hovered briefly outside the interesting things to see at Hammerpress Letterpress Studio while we tasted our First Ever FTF Snow Cones and accepted a piece of paper from a man dressed as a donkey.

artist's statement

fresher than fresh

reading what the donkey gave us

We moseyed to the west side for our next two stops and we happily stumbled upon the urban farm of Lew Edminster, the Herb'n Gardner, whom I had just chatted with at Badseed. Lew wears overalls and farms a corner lot across from the Primitivo Garcia World Language Elementary School on 17th street and Belleview. I said hello to the little lettuces which I hope to buy in a couple of weeks.

baby heads of lettuce and headless bodies of art

the syringe

Up the street then to The Syringe (right next to Mattie Rhodes) where "Mortality" - works by Jessica Dassing featuring needle felting, hand died protein fibers and renderings of birds - was on view. After learning some remarkable things about fibers and admiring a delicate, sheer tapestry comprised of human hair, it was time to go. We had to head out to the last stop on our agenda: "Jutting and Swerving," a show by Jane Gotch and Tiffany Sizemore at La Esquina.

finding our seats

waiting for jutting and swerving to start

Having recently attended my first modern dance event already, I was less unsure and even more amazed. I watched as the dancers worked with fluidity and tension, and I even stopped searching for symmetry. The music and movement cleared my head and aligned my thoughts. The dancers looked so graceful after it was over; exhausted, but graceful. I didn't want it to end and I thought perhaps they didn't either.


I thought the evening would end, too, until we emerged from the show to find that the Crossroads were still hoppin' so we stopped in at Extra Virgin for espresso and churros with chocolate. Nothing like churros in Mexico, but delicious, and the espresso was just the thing on the patio in the chill.

The only bad thing about First Friday is that it's only once a month.

the patio at extra virgin