Wednesday, July 30, 2008

good, clean, fair

A few nights ago I attended a dinner event at Uncommon Ground here in Chicago. The event was entirely based on local farms and products, with Seedling Farm being the main producer. I cannot express how excited I am about how gorgeous this dinner was, how amazing their roof top garden is (complete with honey bees!) or how much I stand behind their decisions of how to do business. The evening started with a tour of their garden on the roof, custom built boxes line the edges and then fill the center of a very large space and contain everything from Pruden's Purple Tomatoes to Chocolate Peppers to a Chicago Fig tree (which is built for our nasty winters!). They served sangria with some sort of beautiful gingerale in it and passed mini crostinis with proscuitto and cherries, lettuce wraps with fresh veggies and some sort of croquetta made with pork. After letting the sun soak into our skin and the plant beds, we went downstairs to the dining room and began the four course dinner.

I've scanned the menu in for you to see, the salmon was out of this world and came out on planks of cherry or pear wood! The first pairing was a house-made melon infused North Shore Vodka with a proscuitto rim, so perfect and lovely.

More so even than the food, what I enjoyed the most was the passion that Helen and Michael Cameron have for their restaurant and for sustainability. It was inspiring to see all the chefs come out from the kitchen to be introduced to the diners and appreciated for their amazing work. Seeing the gardeners and farmers enjoying dinner with everyone, the community made at this dinner, was refreshing. There was really good food, without any of the pretension that sometimes accompanies this type of event. The attention to practices that they can stand behind and speak elegantly about made it worth it for me to be there. I thoroughly recommend dining at either of the Uncommon Ground restaurants in the city and supporting the kind food we all should be eating, the kind that is good, clean and fair.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

things that make us feel big and those that remind us we are small

It's been almost a week since my last post and my how the garden grows! My eggplants look like they are off to join the circus, they have become contortionists and I have my first harvest of baby tomatoes ~ all 10 of them! Which I will be incorporating into supper tonite with the patty-pan squash I bought at the farmer's market today and some of my rapid certainly responded to it with a great bounty of product, returning the thanks I suppose growing basil. Last week I put worm poop on the soil of all the veggies and they have.

My friend Karen and I have decided to start a new blog book club so we can read and converse on the on-line long distance (she's headed to Milwaukee!). I purchased our first book today for a penny, which I was thrilled with, The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2004 edition. I think it'll be a particularly good summer read due to the fact that there are a lot of goodies in it that are shorter. I find that my summer attention gets grabbed easily into watching the bees and trees and that I read like I eat, lighter and with attention on whats fresh. I am super excited! Right now I am reading Montessori Today by Paula Polk Lillard. It focuses on the basic approaches to Montessori education and has been really interesting. I'll share a few quotes that led me into a few of those 'hmmmm, I need to think more about this'/watch the bees/daydream about honey locust trees moments;
"Adults work to change the environment; children use the environment to change themselves."

I love this. I think we need to remember that in order to change our world we need to let it change us a little too, we can't be out of balance with it or it just won't work. Don't you think so?

"The formation of imagination is rooted in sensorial experience. it is the ability to picture material objects or real experiences in their absence, to see in the mind what we no longer see, to hear what we no longer hear. We take these images and make new mental creations from them. However, in order to do this we need to have had previous experience of these images."

So important, I think, in the realm of design (of life!) and the experience with "things" or objects or cultures that we need in order to have a better understanding of how we function with those objects and how we can rethink their purpose or use for the better.

By the way, there are Eames postage stamps at the post office right now and they are lovely. I sent out some thank you notes with them a few days ago and they made my envelopes look fancy.

Friday, July 18, 2008

staked out

I have had to re-stake the tomato plants, their going wild! They certainly can have a mind of their own, but the wind is the real boss. It's been pushing them around, so I staked them higher and then tied them to the fire escape, no more blowing in the wind! The tomatoes have new baby blooms that hopefully will dawn new baby fruits and the peppers are getting huge. The eggplants are the most impressive so far.

Monday, July 14, 2008

ginger and lemongrass

Since returning from Japan I have been craving soups and rice. Generally speaking when I return from a trip I am so sick of the food from wherever it was that I won't eat it for months. This time all I want is fresh fish and beautiful broths with seaweed in it.
So, I've been creating in the kitchen and have come up with a tasty soup that reminds me of being there. This is the generally recipe for it, it's great on a slightly chilled rainy summer night.

Ginger and Lemongrass Soba Noodle Soup
1/2 a package of soba noodles
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. veggie oil
2 T. fresh minced ginger
2 T. chopped scallions (some for the soup, some for garnish)
a dozen or so Shitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps quartered
one stalk of lemongrass, chopped into 2-3 inch pieces and the bulb flattened with a knife
a healthy handful of spinach or cabbage, whatever you may fancy
4 cups chicken stock (you can use veggie stock too)
2 tsp. rice wine vinegar
3-4 tsp. soy sauce (I"ve been substituting Braggs Amino Acids, it's a little healthier)
a dash of sesame seeds, for garnish

Cook soba noodles according to the package, then drain and run cold water over them. Toss with sesame oil and let sit.

Heat veggie oil in deep pan or wok to a medium heat, add ginger and 2/3's of the scallions and cook until the ginger becomes slightly transparent. Add shitake mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes, allowing them to become slightly soft. Add chicken stock, rice wine vinegar and soy sauce. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until mushrooms become soft. Add spinach or cabbage and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, divide into bowls and then add a handful of the soba noodles. Top with remaining scallions and sesame seeds.
Enjoy your quick easy delicious soup!

folk and roots and sangria

a small group of friends went to the Folk&Roots Festival in Welles park yesterday. There was an invitational fiddle competition that was amazing! these people could play! the weather was perfect, super sunny (almost a little too sunny) and there is nothing better than laying on a picnic blanket with fresh summer fruits and veggies and absorbing all the rays. it defined summer for all of us. one of the best moments was dancing to White Mule, one of the fiddle bands in the dance tent. lots of dos-e-do's and ringing of the dishrag to be had by all. we indulged in a lot of beer and mussels at the Hopleaf afterwards and then enjoyed a long bike ride home in the warm summer evening.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

some kyoto

i thought i would begin to share some images from my recent trip to Japan...i'll start with Kyoto [and a little bit of Nara]. so beautiful and thoughtful. every corner was a new experience. these include Todai-ji [the largest wood structure held together with only joinery, no nails!], and sushi.

also, a visit to Ryoan-ji, a rock garden and temple.
the wood floors at Ryoan-ji have been buttered by the oils of thousands of pairs of feet, the patina is amazing. the stone steps that lead to the temple allow an elegant amount of thinking space before you reach the demanding but soulful temple front, which immeadiately asks for your intention in entering. the rock garden is simple and to some it may be a let down, but if you sit and stare it follows a lovely narrative about the relationship of each rock to one another. the raked rocks emphasize this narrative path.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

new fruits

i have three tomatoes! after a lot of dirt was spilled on the sidewalk out front, i have fruit box flower beds that are already producing goodies. the three peppers are all blooming into sexy sprouts of green and the eggplant is starting to drop into place too. my basil was so happy that i cut it back and had to give it away.
the cat is loving on the papyrus plant, strange, but who am i to judge.